A Brief History Of SEC Enforcement Actions Against Directors

Law360, New York (October 16, 2015, 1:59 PM EDT) -- On Sept. 9, 2015, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission brought securities fraud charges against Stephen Pence in connection with his service as chairman of the board of the publicly traded company General Employment Enterprises ("GEE").[1] The SEC alleges that Pence materially misled auditors and investors about the misuse of company funds. The SEC is seeking disgorgement, monetary penalties, and a ban on Pence's future service as an officer or director.   Though rare, enforcement actions against directors are a key component of the SEC's targeting of misconduct by "gatekeepers," a term Chair Mary Jo White uses to describe "the attorneys, accountants, auditors, fund directors and other board members and professionals who play a critical role in the securities industry and share the responsibility with regulators to protect investors."[2] Of these, Chair White views directors of public companies as the "most important," and has singled out audit committee members as playing "an extraordinarily important role in creating a culture of compliance through their oversight of financial reporting."[3] Under her leadership, the SEC has put directors on notice that the SEC is "pursuing those who should be serving as the neighborhood watch, but who fail to do their jobs."[4]...

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