On July 2, 2013, the SEC announced three initiatives that will build on its Division of Enforcement’s ongoing efforts to concentrate resources on high-risk areas of the market and bring cutting-edge technology and analytical capacity to bear in its investigations. The initiatives are:
Financial Reporting and Audit Task
The Financial Reporting and Audit Task Force will concentrate on expanding and strengthening the Division’s efforts to identify securities-law violations relating to the preparation of financial statements, issuer reporting and disclosure, and audit failures. The principal goal of the Task Force will be fraud detection and increased prosecution of violations involving false or misleading financial statements and disclosures. The Task Force will focus on identifying and exploring areas susceptible to fraudulent financial reporting, including on-going review of financial statement restatements and revisions, analysis of performance trends by industry, and use of technology-based tools such as the Accounting Quality Model. It will include Enforcement attorneys and accountants from across the country, working in close consultation with the Division’s Office of the Chief Accountant, the SEC’s Office of the Chief Accountant, the Division of Corporation Finance, and the Division of Economic and Risk Analysis.
Microcap Fraud Task Force
The Microcap Fraud Task Force will investigate fraud in the issuance, marketing, and trading of microcap securities. These abuses frequently involve serial violators and organized syndicates that employ new media, especially websites and social media, to conduct fraudulent promotional campaigns and engage in manipulative trading strategies to amass ill-gotten gains, largely at the expense of less sophisticated investors. The principal goal of the Task Force will be to develop and implement long-term strategies for detecting and combating fraud in the microcap market, especially by targeting “gatekeepers,” such as attorneys, auditors, broker-dealers, and transfer agents, and other significant participants, such as stock promoters and purveyors of shell companies.
The Microcap Fraud Task Force will build on the extensive and successful work of the Microcap Fraud Working Group – created in 2010 to bring together enforcement and examination staff with common interests in detecting and preventing microcap fraud – in amassing data, developing new approaches to investigations in this sector of the market, and forging relationships with criminal law enforcement authorities. The Task Force will not replace the Working Group but will differ from it in that it will consist of staff dedicated exclusively to investigation of participants in the microcap securities market.
Center for Risk and Quantitative Analytics
The Center for Risk and Quantitative Analytics (CRQA) will support and coordinate the Division’s risk identification, risk assessment and data analytic activities by identifying risks and threats that could harm investors, and assist staff nationwide in conducting risk-based investigations and developing methods of monitoring for signs of possible wrongdoing. It will work in close association with other Commission offices and divisions, especially the Division of Economic and Risk Analysis, and provide guidance to the Enforcement Division’s leadership on how to allocate resources strategically in light of identified risks. As a central point of contact for risk-based initiatives nationwide, CRQA will serve as both an analytical hub and source of information about characteristics and patterns indicative of possible fraud or other illegality.