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On Nov. 1, 2019, the U.S. Supreme Court granted certiorari in Liu v. Securities and Exchange Commission to address a question that, until fairly recently, seemed clear beyond cavil: whether the SEC has authority to obtain disgorgement in civil actions to enforce the federal securities laws. Since the 1970’s, disgorgement of ill-gotten gains has been a powerful and frequently utilized weapon in the SEC’s arsenal. In its June 2017 decision in Kokesh v. SEC, 137 S. Ct. 1635 (2017), the Supreme Court characterized SEC disgorgement as a “penalty” rather than an equitable remedy but expressly declined to decide whether courts possess authority to order disgorgement in SEC enforcement proceedings. In Liu, the Court will address head-on the question left open in Kokesh. The outcome of Liu has the potential to upset long-standing precedent and practices. If the Court further restricts the SEC’s ability to obtain disgorgement, the decision will have significant ramifications for the SEC’s enforcement program.
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By Robert J. Anello and Richard F. Albert
When federal prosecutors focus their attention on high profile misconduct that is not an obvious violation of federal criminal law, they often cannot resist the attractions of broadly worded “catch-all” fraud statutes. From time to time, however, the U.S. Supreme Court has pushed back on efforts to further expand the boundaries of these statutes, leading to reversals of some well-publicized criminal convictions.
By Margaret A. Dale and Mark D. Harris
Given the current turmoil in the markets, an increasing number of plaintiffs are bringing shareholder class action suits, citing corporate statements about COVID-19. As first-quarter earnings season draws to a close, now is a good time to reflect on the shareholder class actions that have been brought to date related to COVID-19, and others potentially yet to come.
By Terence M. Grugan, David L. Axelrod and Emilia McKee Vassallo
For more than 10 years, federal investigators have investigated criminal conduct in connection with the 2008 recession-era TARP program. From those investigations, U.S. Attorneys across the country brought cases and earned convictions for offenses spanning the federal criminal code. We can expect that these same agencies will use the same techniques and strategies to investigate crimes and bring cases involving fraud related to the COVID-19 stimulus packages.
By Russell Koonin and Adam Schwartz
In the midst the current COVID-19 pandemic, the SEC is paying attention. The Division of Enforcement has made clear that it will act, and act quickly, to stop fraudulent conduct that falls under its jurisdiction related to the pandemic.