Government Enforcement

U.S. regulators, in particular the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (“CFTC”), are intently pursuing market manipulation enforcement. The September 30 end of the 2019 fiscal year brought with it a flurry of press releases from four different agencies announcing settlements of spoofing-related enforcement actions against trading firms, banks, interdealer brokers, and traders.
Continue Reading Spoofing Enforcement Intensifies

Under its new leader, the New York Department of Financial Services (“DFS”) has staked out high ground for itself by self-identifying as the “regulator of the future” DFS’s pronouncement came in a July press release issued about a month after Linda Lacewell was confirmed as the agency’s third superintendent. The press release, issued to announce the creation of a new Research and Innovation Division, signals that DFS is attempting to harness the increasing technological tools available to regulators, while making New York an attractive place for financial firms to do business. “The financial services regulatory landscape needs to evolve and adapt as innovation in banking, insurance and regulatory technology continues to grow,” Lacewell said in the press release. “This new division and these appointments position DFS as the regulator of the future, allowing the Department to better protect consumers, develop best practices, and analyze market data to strengthen New York’s standing as the center of financial innovation.”
Continue Reading New York’s Department of Financial Services: the Self-Styled “Regulator of the Future”

The C-Suite rarely wants to consider, much less worry about, the impacts of criminal conduct on their business. The reality is, however, companies can and do get pulled into criminal and quasi-criminal enforcement actions as both victims and (albeit unintentional) perpetrators. Two areas of criminal conduct that perhaps do not receive the amount of C-Suite attention they deserve are internal trade secret theft and human trafficking.
Continue Reading How to Prevent or Defend Against Business Crimes, including Trade Secrets and Human Trafficking

On April 29, 2019, just months into her new job at the New York State Department of Financial Services (“DFS”), acting DFS Superintendent Linda Lacewell announced a significant reorganization within the financial and insurance regulator. The new Consumer Protection and Financial Enforcement Division (the “CPFED”) combines seven previously separate divisions and units – Enforcement, Investigations and Intelligence, the Civil Investigations Unit, the Producers Unit, the Consumer Examinations Unit, the Student Protection Unit, and the Holocaust Claims Processing Office – under a single executive deputy superintendent. Lacewell appointed Katherine Lemire, a former state and federal prosecutor, to head the newly-minted division.
Continue Reading New York DFS Consumer Protection and Financial Enforcement Division: New Name, New Look, Old Mandate

The April issue of National Defense Magazine brought a well-written article by Susan Cassidy and her colleagues at Covington & Burling LLP on a recent DOD IG report analyzing (and criticizing) spare aviation parts pricing, even though the report concluded that the contractor in question had complied with the Truthful Cost or Pricing Data Act. The article addresses the IG’s concept of a fair profit – which is abjectly divorced from reality – and it notes that the GAO has been conducting a study of spare parts purchasing with a promise of recommendations to improve transparency in this area. I commend the article to anyone who operates in the spares market and wants to know where the Government is heading in relation to spares pricing.

With the IG and the GAO injecting themselves – yet again – into the spare parts market and decrying the rapacious contractors who dare to sell at prices that the Government regards as outrageous (after all, why in the world would anyone think that a profit rate in excess of 15% on a firm fixed price contract was reasonable?) it seems like a good time to revisit the reasons why the Government’s periodic complaints about spare parts pricing are generally myopic and wrong. And so, because no criticism of Government contractors ever goes away forever, I offer for your consumption a refresher: the re-publication of a posting that I authored in November 2014, entitled “How Dare You Charge That for a Spare Part!” – The Untold Story of the X27 Interface Assembly” –
Continue Reading Resurrecting the Spare Parts Bogeyman – A Refresher on Why the Government Gets It Wrong

The Enforcement Division of the United States Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) recently released its annual enforcement report (“Report”) for fiscal year 2018. The Report reflects an increased focus on retail investors, cryptocurrency, cybercrime, and individual accountability. Further, it showcases that SEC enforcement continues to be robust under the Trump administration, despite industry and media expectations to the contrary.

In fiscal year 2018, the SEC brought 821 enforcement actions, an approximately 8.8% increase from last year. The SEC collected approximately $3.9 billion in monetary penalties, a 4% increase from last year. Notably, however, a significant portion of this amount came from a single case, in which $1.8 billion in disgorgement and penalties were awarded for a large-scale corruption scheme. Moreover, while total monetary penalties rose, there was a decrease in the total amount of disgorgement imposed. This is likely due in part to the Supreme Court’s 2017 Kokesh decision, which held that SEC claims for disgorgement are subject to a five-year statute of limitations.  
Continue Reading SEC Enforcement’s Annual Report Prioritizes Retail Investors, Cryptocurrency, Cybercrime, and Individual Accountability

In the aftermath of the Securities and Exchange Commission’s (“SEC”) latest Report of Investigation (“Report”) regarding cyberattacks via “spoofed or manipulated electronic communications,” companies should prepare to adjust and update their internal controls or face possible enforcement actions for violation of federal securities law.  Released as a warning to public companies about recent cyberattacks, the Report’s emphasis that companies maintain proper internal controls to combat cybersecurity issues indicates SEC enforcement actions for lack of proper cybersecurity procedures and supervision are on the horizon.    
Continue Reading Fool Me Twice…SEC’s latest Cyber-Fraud ROI Indicates Future Enforcement Against Hacker Victims

Accepting money from the Government, whether through a contract, grant, or other transaction, does not come for free. In the commercial world, companies typically engage in a cost/benefit analysis when they make major decisions, such as whether to enter a new line of business, extend their product line, open new facilities, or expand globally. To make these decisions, the company tries to understand not simply the available business opportunities, but also the obligations that are imposed and the risks that are inherent. This is equally, if not more, true when a commercial company decides to sell anything to the U.S. Government – whether as a prime contractor or subcontractor. The Federal Government is an extremely large consumer of goods and services, and so it is a marketplace that is hard to ignore. But, seller beware – because with the opportunities arising from this marketplace come obligations with which your company may not be able to comply. Moreover, while compliance may cost you more than you anticipate, noncompliance could destroy your business. So make sure that you look before you leap into the federal marketplace.
Continue Reading Look Before You Leap – Pitfalls and Trip Wires Inherent in Government Contracting

In an issue of first impression, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals recently held that a rogue corporate officer’s fraudulent intent can be imputed to a corporation even where the defrauding officer acted against the corporation’s interest, known as the “adverse interest exception.” In re ChinaCast Educ. Corp. Sec. Litig., — F.3d  –, 2015 WL 6405680, at *5 (9th Cir. Oct. 23, 2015).  In so holding, the Ninth Circuit created “an exception to the exception” – when an innocent third party relies on a defrauding officer’s apparent authority, the officer’s fraud can be imputed to the corporation even if that fraud was adverse to the corporation’s interest.
Continue Reading Ninth Circuit Severely Limits “Rogue Employee” Exception for Corporations in Securities Fraud Cases

Contractors and government contracts attorneys are likely to see (if they haven’t already) a rise in the number of cases in which individuals, rather than corporate entities, are targeted by government officials for suspension and debarment.  This is significant because, under the FAR, the misconduct of an individual can be imputed to the contractor, causing the contractor to lose its ability to receive Federal contracts.
Continue Reading Suspension and Debarment: A New Government Approach