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SEC's Top 6 Exam Priorities for 2021

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The Securities and Exchange Commission’s Division of Examinations said Wednesday that its coverage of RIAs in 2020, a year in which the RIA population continued to increase “and the pandemic necessitated a mid-year shift to remote examining,” was 15%.

The SEC completed 2,952 exams in fiscal 2020, a 4.4% decrease from fiscal 2019.

“This small decrease, when viewed in light of the impact of the pandemic, is illustrative of the staff’s hard work, resiliency and dedication to the SEC’s and the Division’s mission to protect investors,” the agency said Wednesday in releasing its must-read 2021 exam priorities list.

In the last five years, the number of RIAs the SEC oversees increased from about 12,000 to more than 13,900, and the assets under management of RIAs increased from approximately $67 trillion to $97 trillion, the agency reported.

Pete Driscoll, director of the division, stated in releasing the report that the exam division priorities “reflect the complicated, diverse, and evolving nature of the risks to investors and the markets, including climate and ESG. In this unprecedented time, the Division is committed to continuing to adapt examination processes and find innovative ways to enhance the effectiveness of examinations and our risk-based approach.”

Acting SEC Chair Allison Herren Lee added in the statement that the agency is “integrating climate and ESG considerations into the agency’s broader regulatory framework.”

Read the gallery above to see the securities regulator’s top six exam priorities this year.