Analysis

The Securities Enforcement Empirical Database (SEED) currently provides data for SEC actions initiated against public companies traded on major U.S. exchanges and their subsidiaries. We define public companies as companies with security prices that are tracked by the Center for Research in Security Prices.

The SEC filed 53 new enforcement actions against public companies and subsidiaries in FY 2021, the lowest number since FY 2014.

The figure illustrates the number of SEC actions against public companies and subsidiaries in each fiscal year 2012 to 2021

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SEED tracks the type of allegation the SEC makes in each enforcement proceeding. In FY 2021, Issuer Reporting and Disclosure allegations accounted for the majority (51 percent) of all actions filed against public companies and subsidiaries. One action was brought under the SEC’s Earnings Per Share (EPS) Initiative.

The figure contains a heat map of the percentages of SEC actions against public companies and subsidiaries for each allegation type from fiscal year 2012 to fiscal year 2021

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In FY 2021, the SEC brought 13 percent of the public company and subsidiary actions in federal court, consistent with the 11 percent average over the last five fiscal years.

The figure illustrates the percentages of civil actions and administrative proceedings against public companies and subsidiaries for each fiscal year 2012 to 2021.  See color accessible chart. See full text description

See color accessible chart. See full text description

In FY 2021, settlements imposed in public company and subsidiary actions that noted cooperation by defendants declined from 62 percent in FY 2020 to 58 percent. This is consistent with the historical average of 58 percent form FY 2012 to FY 2020. 

The figure illustrates, for each fiscal year from 2012 to 2021, the percentages of SEC actions against public companies and subsidiaries that noted: cooperation and monetary settlement; cooperation and no monetary settlement; no cooperation and monetary settlement; no cooperation and no monetary settlement

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Monetary settlements in public company and subsidiary actions totaled $1.8 billion in FY 2021, similar to average annual monetary settlements of $1.6 billion for FY 2012 through FY 2020. The median monetary settlement decline to $1 million in FY 2021, the lowest median monetary settlement since FY 2015.

The figure illustrates the average monetary settlement and the median monetary settlement in each fiscal year 2012 to 2021

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The share of total monetary settlements imposed in public company and subsidiary actions from disgorgement and prejudgment interest declined to 46 percent in FY 2021, the lowest share since 2015.

The figure illustrates the percentages of civil penalties and other monetary settlements vs. disgorgement and prejudgment interest against public companies and subsidiaries for each fiscal year 2012 to 2021

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SEED also includes data on admissions of guilt. SEED considers a defendant to have an admission of guilt if the admission is in the SEC action, as opposed to a parallel action. For the first time since FY 2011, there were no public company or subsidiary defendants with admissions of guilt in FY 2021.

The figure illustrates the number of public company and subsidiary defendants that settled with an admission of guilt, settled with neither admitting nor denying the allegations, and settled without either of those specific phrases regarding the allegations for each fiscal year 2012 to 2021

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