The Securities and Exchange Commission conducted more than 1,530 advisor exams last year, 11% of which led to enforcement referrals, and expects to keep up the volume established in the past four or five years even while it is shifting focus, according to recent comments by SEC officials.
First, there may be a little more restraint ahead with sweep exams. The SEC’s Office of Compliance Inspections and Examinations (OCIE) will now give the five commissioners input on planned sweep exams, or at least alert them to the sweeps in an effort at improved coordination, according to Commissioner Paul Atkins. Atkins, who addressed the Investment Advisor Association’s (IAA) compliance best practices conference in Washington February 28, spoke with disdain of some SEC staff amassing large penalties the way that some “athletes collect trophies,” and of examiners seeking ill-gotten “regulatory glory” with tallies of their fines and sweeps. “Enforcement fines should not be the focus of enforcement,” Atkins said, noting prison and other measures send a stronger message.
Atkins also remarked that the SEC should not be overzealous and penalize advisors retroactively for problems occurring before a new rule has taken effect, nor set regulatory policy during the exam process, nor use obsolete or technologically unfeasible requirements during inspections.