Wednesday, October 11, 2017
Verity Winship and Jennifer K. Robbennolt have posted An Empirical Study of Admissions in SEC Settlements on SSRN with the following abstract:
Transparency and accountability were the announced aims of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) as it unveiled a new policy of requiring some enforcement targets to admit wrongdoing when they settled with the agency. The SEC had come under fire for allowing targets of enforcement to settle with the agency without admitting or denying wrongdoing. Critics, including prominent judges, put pressure on the agency to require admissions as a way to hold wrongdoers accountable, particularly in the long aftermath of the 2007-2008 financial crisis. In response, the agency announced a policy change in 2013: roughly speaking, it would require admissions when doing so would further public accountability. The empirical study reported here explores how the agency has implemented this policy. We identify and analyze SEC settlements in court and administrative proceedings announced between 2010 and 2016 that required any type of admission of wrongdoing from the settling target. The data set includes the full text of the underlying agreements between the SEC and the target. The resulting numbers are low: we identified 62 settlements containing admissions that were announced during our time period. A few of these settlements were in high-profile cases, but many were against individuals rather than entities, and 40% resulted in low or no monetary sanctions. These numbers, however, do not tell the whole story. We examine the text of the agreements to provide a more nuanced picture, revealing the prominent role of factual admissions, and identifying admissions of wrongdoing, knowledge, and recklessness.