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March 3, 2020

RELEASE: Should Scammers Get to Keep the Money They Steal? The U.S. Supreme Court is Hearing from the Parties this Morning

Tuesday, March 3, 2020
Contact: 202-618-6433,

Washington, D.C.  –  Stephen W. Hall, Legal Director and Securities Specialist for Better Markets, issued the following statement as the Supreme Court hears oral argument in Liu v. SEC, a case that will determine whether the Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) can still seek to recover ill-gotten gains from those who violate the securities laws:

“The ability to recover money stolen by scam artists is one of the SEC’s most powerful enforcement tools.  It’s not just a matter of fundamental fairness, it’s also been the law of the land in all federal courts for 50 years.  Yet this morning, a pair of scam artists who stole almost $27 million from their hapless victims tried to persuade the Supreme Court that the SEC has no legal authority to seek a court order requiring them to give up their ill-gotten gains.

“It’s really an outrageous claim, but the Court agreed to hear the case and we’ll have to see how it unfolds.  Oral argument today will provide the first clues about how some of the Justices may be viewing the case.

“Better Markets weighed in to help the SEC defend its disgorgement authority.  In our “friend of the court” brief, we argued that decades of case law is on the SEC’s side, that the Liu’s themselves cannot complain about how the lower courts added up their disgorgement liability, and that if the Court gets it wrong, countless investors and consumers will suffer.  A bad decision from the Court would mean less deterrence, more securities fraud, and fewer victims recovering their losses.  And it would also mean that other agencies that rely heavily on disgorgement, like the Federal Trade Commission, may lose one of their most important enforcement tools.

“The case illustrates once again the extraordinarily important—and often underappreciated—role that Supreme Court decisions can play in the lives of everyday Americans.  We’ve listened closely to the argument and will be awaiting the Court’s decision in this critically important case.”


Better Markets is a non-profit, non-partisan, and independent organization founded in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis to promote the public interest in the financial markets, support the financial reform of Wall Street and make our financial system work for all Americans again. Better Markets works with allies – including many in finance – to promote pro-market, pro-business and pro-growth policies that help build a stronger, safer financial system that protects and promotes Americans’ jobs, savings, retirements and more. To learn more, visit

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