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from Financial Regulatory Forum:

Expect corruption crackdown to widen, intensify

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By Stuart Gittleman, Compliance Complete

NEW YORK, Apr. 15, 2014 (Thomson Reuters Accelus) - Companies and financial firms that are potentially subject to the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and other anti-corruption regimes should expect more of the enforcement crackdown they have seen in recent years, except in greater quantity and intensity, two former U.S. government officials said last week.

The ex-officials, Cheryl Scarboro, a law partner at Simpson Thacher & Bartlett, and Greg Andres, a partner at the law firm Davis Polk & Wardwell, respectively headed the Securities and Exchange Commission Enforcement Division FCPA unit and the Department of Justice Criminal Division fraud section. They spoke at an FCPA and anti-corruption seminar at the New York City Bar Association.

The focus on bribery and corruption is resulting in more investigations of high-profile businesses and individuals by the SEC, the DoJ and other regulators, Scarboro, Andres and other panelists warned.

As SEC Chair Mary Jo White has called for, some corporate defendants have been required to admit to some or all of the agency's allegations in certain cases, but this has not yet occurred in FCPA cases, Scarboro noted. Such admissions, like guilty pleas and factual statements of misconduct in deferred prosecution agreements (DPAs) and non-prosecution agreements (NPAs), can have serious collateral consequences such as debarment from federal and World Bank business opportunities, she added.

from Financial Regulatory Forum:

The JOBS Act at age two – prodigy or enfant terrible?

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By Stuart Gittleman, Compliance Complete

NEW YORK, Apr. 3, 2014 (Thomson Reuters Accelus) - The financial services industry is still getting used to the two-year old JOBS Act, as funds gingerly begin to explore new general-solicitation freedoms and "crowdfunding" venues sort through the rules, speakers said at a Fordham Law School forum in New York.

As mandated by the JOBS – or Jumpstart Our Business Startups – Act enacted in April 2012, the Securities and Exchange Commission has adopted rules for general solicitations that became effective in September 2013, and is reviewing comments to a December 2013 set of proposed crowd-funding rules.

from Financial Regulatory Forum:

Book by high-profile author Lewis may spur high-frequency-trading reform push, success unclear

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By Emmanuel Olaoye, Compliance Complete

WASHINGTON/NEW YORK, Apr. 2, 2014 (Thomson Reuters Accelus) - During a clip on Sunday night's "60 Minutes" program, host Steve Kroft asked bestselling author Michael Lewis why he was so opposed to high frequency trading.

"If it wasn't so complicated, it would be illegal," said Lewis, who is the author of a new book called "Flash Boys: A Wall Street Revolt." 

from Breakingviews:

Rob Cox: GE should put itself up for sale

By Rob Cox
The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

General Electric should sell itself. If that sounds like an April Fools’ Day joke, think again. It’s a real proposal on the ballot at the industrial group’s annual meeting. Setting aside the absence of any obvious buyer for the $260 billion company, the proposition illustrates the kind of shareholder democracy gone wild that many boards, and even some regulators, would like to squelch. They have half a point.

from Breakingviews:

Activists crash dealmaker party

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By Reynolds Holding
The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

Activists are crashing the dealmaker party. Shareholder lawsuits, cross-border mergers and defender-in-chief Marty Lipton will play supporting roles at the annual New Orleans confab for M&A attorneys and bankers. Aggressive investors shaking dozy boards are this year’s headliners. Their increasing presence at the gathering reinforces a growing power.

from MuniLand:

The SEC’s new municipal adviser rule is not confusing

Governing.com ran a story titled “Why's the SEC's New Municipal Advisor Rule So Confusing?” Actually the new rule, although not yet finalized, is not confusing. There are resources for muniland participants to understand how it will be implemented and what responsibilities muni advisors have towards their clients. In fact, I have never seen a better rollout for a new regulatory effort.

Here is a roadmap:

As directed by Congress in the 2010 Dodd Frank legislation, the SEC published the definition of a municipal adviser last September. Over 1,100 municipal advisers have registered with the SEC and MSRB (registrations here including a downloadable list). Reuters detailed what happened last January:

from Financial Regulatory Forum:

“Big data” tools will improve regulatory oversight, FINRA’s di Florio says

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By Stuart Gittleman, Compliance Complete

NEW YORK, Feb. 25 (Thomson Reuters Accelus) - The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority is developing a suite of "big data" information sources and analytics to improve regulatory oversight of securities firms, according to Carlo di Florio, FINRA's chief risk officer and head of strategy.

Leveraging technology and analytics can make for a "unique moment in regulation [that lets regulators] see things they couldn't have seen or understood as well before," di Florio said at an event this week hosted by the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association compliance and legal society.

from Alison Frankel:

In new amicus brief, SEC wants to protect whistleblowers – and itself

In 2012 and 2013, when the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals was considering the question of whether Dodd-Frank's anti-retaliation provisions protect whistleblowers who report their concerns internally, rather than to the Securities and Exchange Commission, the SEC stayed out of the fray. The case, Khaled Asadi v. G.E. Energy, centered on the tension between two sections of Dodd-Frank, one of which seemed to define whistleblowers only as those who tip the SEC about potential misconduct by their employers. In its Dodd-Frank implementation process, the SEC attempted to resolve the tension, issuing rules to clarify that whistleblowers are protected from retaliation regardless of whether they report concerns to the agency or up the chain of command through internal compliance programs, as the older Sarbanes-Oxley Act had encouraged. The SEC's rules have convinced most of the federal trial judges who have considered the scope of Dodd-Frank whistleblower protections; courts have typically cited the deference due to the agency's interpretation of a law it is responsible for enforcing.

Not the 5th Circuit, however. Last July, the appeals court dismissed Asadi's retaliation suit against G.E., holding that he is not a Dodd-Frank whistleblower because he first informed his boss, and not the SEC, about possible Foreign Corrupt Practices Act violations in G.E. Energy's dealings with Iraqi officials. The 5th Circuit said it didn't need to reach the SEC's interpretation because the statutory language of Dodd-Frank is unambiguous: Whistleblowers are defined as those who report suspicions to the SEC.

from Financial Regulatory Forum:

U.S. SEC releases 2014 exam priorities; exchanges, retirement in focus

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By Nick Paraskeva, for Compliance Complete

NEW YORK, Jan. 15 (Thomson Reuters Accelus) - The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission on Thursday published the 2014 priorities for its national examination program (NEP). Prominent among the priorities were scrutiny of "perceived control weakness" at financial exchanges and oversight of retirement investments.

The NEP’s examination priorities address issues that span the entire market, such as fraud, retirement rollovers and older investors, corporate governance, enterprise risk-management and technology. In addition, each of the NEP’s four program areas: investment advisers and investment companies, broker-dealers, exchanges and self-regulatory
organizations, and clearing and transfer agents, have individual focus areas.

from Financial Regulatory Forum:

Groups urge Congress to let SEC charge fees for adviser exams

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By Emmanuel Olaoye, Compliance Complete

WASHINGTON, Dec. 13 (Thomson Reuters Accelus) - A coalition of groups representing investment advisers and state regulators has asked Congress to support a bill that would let the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission to charge investment advisers an annual "user fee" for its exams.

In a letter sent to Congress last week, the coalition said the user fees collected by the SEC would fund the agency's examinations of registered investment advisers. 

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