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March 5, 2012

SEC Enforcement Story Doesn’t Add Up for 2011

U.S Securities and Exchange Commission officials have been citing a jump in the number of enforcement actions last year as proof that an overhaul of the agency’s investigative force is bearing fruit. The claim isn’t supported by a detailed examination of the statistics.

SEC Enforcement Director Robert Khuzami said in November that the unit filed 735 actions in fiscal 2011, “a record- breaking performance during a period of resource constraints.” Citing the numbers, SEC Chairman Mary Schapiro told a Washington conference last week that the agency’s changes “are already producing record results.” The SEC also noted the record numbers in justifying its 2013 budget request to Congress.

Still, more than 230, or 31 percent, of the 735 matters weren’t new. They were so-called follow-on administrative proceedings that institute penalties in cases that already had been brought, the examination by Bloomberg News shows.

Excluding those actions, such as barring people who’ve already been found guilty of fraud from working in the industry, the SEC filed 499 original cases last year, fewer than the 520 in 2009, the year before the reorganization. In 2009, 144, or 22 percent, of the 664 total actions were follow-on proceedings.

Read the full story here.

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