The Securities and Exchange Commission collected $2.8 billion in financial settlements with companies in fiscal 2022, the most in its history, as SEC Chair Gary Gensler kicked up enforcement efforts even as the agency faces constitutional challenges over how it administers regulations.
The total recovered in the fiscal year ended Sept. 30 was nearly 50% more than in fiscal 2021, according to a report by New York University’s Pollack Center for Law & Business and Cornerstone Research. The agency filed 68 enforcement actions in fiscal 2022, up 28% from the previous year, and collected money from a record 97% of the 75 companies that settled.
In a sign of increasing aggressiveness toward broker-dealers, the SEC extracted admissions of guilt from 16 companies, double the number of any previous year in the NYU’s Securities Enforcement Empirical Database, said Stephen Choi, director of the Pollack Center. The median settlement in fiscal 2022 was $9 million, a record according to SEED, and the average was $42 million.
The SEC collected $1.2 billion from 16 public broker-dealers, most of it in a wave of settlements of recordkeeping charges against Barclays Capital, Bank of America, Citigroup, Morgan Stanley and others announced in September. Those settlements represented 44% of the total collected in fiscal 2022.
“The increase in monetary settlements is consistent with the SEC’s public statements that ‘robust remedies’ are an enforcement priority,” said Sara Gilley, a Cornerstone Research vice president.
Despite continuing challenges to the constitutionality of the practice, the SEC conducted 88% of its enforcement proceedings with administrative law judges employed by the agency. The SEC also pursued five cases through litigation, compared with an average of three over the previous five fiscal years, indicating an increasing willingness by the agency to go to court.
The SEC also filed four actions against public companies over environmental, social and governance issues. And only 1% of companies settled without cooperating with the SEC or paying any money, the lowest recorded in NYU’s SEED database.