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SEC Asks Staff To Work From Home After Virus Scare At HQ

By Dean Seal · March 10, 2020, 3:19 PM EDT

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission is asking staff at its Washington, D.C., headquarters to work from home after an employee was referred for coronavirus testing on Monday.

An agency spokesperson confirmed Tuesday that a worker in the D.C. office had been treated for respiratory symptoms the day before and was informed by a physician that he or she may have COVID-19.

The unidentified employee is now being tested for coronavirus while the regulator takes steps to address the virus' spread in the nation's capital.

"Amongst other precautions, the SEC is encouraging headquarters employees to telework until further guidance," the spokesperson told Law360 in a statement.

The SEC appears to be the first federal agency to recommend teleworking in reaction to the outbreak of COVID-19, which has roiled global markets in recent weeks and led the Dow Jones Industrial Average to suffer its worst decline since 2008 on Monday.

The regulator said Tuesday that even with the increased telework, "the SEC remains able and committed to fully executing its mission on behalf of investors, including monitoring market function and working closely with other regulators and market participants."

Last week, the agency announced it would provide certain publicly traded companies with conditional regulatory relief for meeting federal filing obligations in light of COVID-19's spread, saying the outbreak could create new hurdles for keeping markets and investors informed.

Companies both located in and operating within affected areas could qualify for relief, which provides at least an additional 45 days to file certain disclosure reports otherwise due between March 1 and April 30.

"The health and safety of all participants in our markets is of paramount importance," SEC Chairman Jay Clayton said in a March 4 announcement of the measure. "While timely public filing of Exchange Act reports is a cornerstone of well-functioning markets, we recognize that this situation may prevent certain issuers from compiling these reports within required time frames."

In the announcement, Clayton advised companies to keep investors informed about their plans to address the COVID-19 outbreak and the potential impacts and risks it poses to their businesses and operations.

--Editing by Janice Carter Brown.

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