SEC’s Office of Investor Education and Advocacy Provides an Overview of How the Division of Enforcement Conducts Investigations

On October 22, SEC’s Office of Investor Education and Advocacy issued an Investor Bulletin to provide investors with a general overview of how the SEC’s Division of Enforcement conducts investigations.  The Bulletin states that the Division of Enforcement may be more likely to initiate an investigation if the matter:

  • Requires immediate action to protect investors;
  • Relates to conduct that may threaten the fairness or liquidity of the securities markets;
  • Involves individuals with a history of misconduct;
  • Involves a subject matter the SEC or Enforcement has designated as a priority;
  • Fulfills a programmatic goal of the SEC and Enforcement; or
  • Concerns an industry practice that may be widespread and should be addressed.  Bulletin.

MSRB Creates Supervision and Compliance Requirements for Municipal Advisors

On October 23, the Municipal Securities Rulemaking Board received approval from the SEC to create the first new rule for municipal advisors since the SEC released its final registration rule for these professionals in September 2013.

The new supervision requirements take effect April 23, 2015, providing firms six months to implement the required policies and procedures. By April 23, 2016, the chief executive officers (or the equivalent) of municipal advisor firms must make the first of their annual certifications in writing that the municipal advisor has in place processes to establish, maintain, review, test and modify written compliance procedures and written supervisory procedures reasonably designed to achieve compliance with applicable rules.  MSRB Rule.

Joint Federal Regulators Approve Final Risk Retention Rules

On October 21 and 22, the Fed, HUD, FDIC, FHFA, OCC, and SEC jointly approved final risk retention rules.  The final rules, which implement Section 941 of Dodd Frank, generally follow the re-proposed rules issued in August 2013, mandating that sponsors retain at least 5% of the credit risk in asset-backed securities transactions.  Generally, risk may be retained by holding either a horizontal or avertical slice of issued securities, while additional options are available for specific types of securitizations.  The rules will apply toresidential mortgage-backed securities one year after publication in the Federal Register, and will apply to all other asset classes two years after publication.  Final Rules.  Joint Release.

SEC Announces its Reg AB II Registration Statement Pilot Program

On October 6, the SEC announced its Regulation AB II pilot program for registration statements relating to asset-backed securities. The SEC will begin accepting email requests to participate at 9 am ET on October 20. The SEC will select at least two issuers per asset class (on a first-come-first-served basis), and the deadline for draft registration statements is expected to be in February 2015. The SEC plans to make the draft registration statements and staff comments available to the public.  Announcement.

SEC Publishes Risk Alert and FAQs Reminding Broker-Dealers of their Obligations In Unregistered Transactions

On October 9, the SEC announced publication of a Risk Alert and FAQs to remind broker-dealers of their obligations when they engage in unregistered transactions on behalf of their customers. The publication of the staff guidance was accompanied by the announcement of an enforcement action against two firms for improperly selling billions of shares of penny stocks through such unregistered offerings. The Risk Alert summarizes deficiencies that were discovered by the SEC’s Office of Compliance Inspections and Examinations (OCIE) during a targeted sweep of 22 broker-dealers frequently involved in the sale of microcap securities. Announcement. Risk Alert.

SEC Launches Municipal Advisor Exam Initiative

On August 19, the SEC Announced a Municipal Advisor Exam Initiative for newly registered municipal advisors.  This “presence” exam initiative appears to be similar in scope and purpose to the “presence” examinations that the SEC has been conducting of investment advisers that were newly registered as a result of the implementation of the Dodd-Frank-Act.

SEC rules that took effect on July 1 generally require municipal advisors to register with the SEC under the final registration process during a four-month phase-in period by October 31. The examinations are designed to establish a presence with the newly regulated municipal advisors.  Over the next two years, the SEC Staff plans to examine a significant percentage of these advisors using an approach that focuses on identified risks.  Areas targeted for scrutiny may include the municipal advisor’s compliance with its fiduciary duty to its municipal entity clients, books and recordkeeping obligations, disclosure, fair dealing, supervision, and employee qualifications and training. Press Release.

Judge Rakoff Approves SEC’s $285M Settlement With Citigroup

On remand following a Second Circuit decision vacating his June 2011 rejection of a settlement between Citigroup and the SEC, Judge Jed Rakoff of the Southern District of New York approved the settlement, finding that it met the requirements articulated by the Second Circuit.  In the settlement, Citigroup has agreed to pay US$285 million to resolve fraud claims stemming from the sale of mortgage-backed securities.  Additionally, in its August 1, 2014, Form 10-Q, Citigroup stated that the SEC had advised Citigroup that it had concluded its investigation of Citigroup’s MBS practices and did not intend to recommend an enforcement action.  Opinion10-Q Excerpt.