SEC Altering Its Guilt-Evasion Rules

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Late in 2011, a U.S. judge rejected a settlement between the SEC and Citigroup because the bank would "neither admit nor deny" the fraud charges against them, which the court said was "neither fair, nor reasonable, nor adequate, nor in the public interest." Moving forward, the SEC will change that controversial policy, no longer using the "neither admit nor deny" language when a company has admitted to or been convicted of violations by another government agency — say, the Justice Department. 

The Times reports:

For example, the S.E.C. and the Justice Department announced on the same day last month that Wachovia bank would pay $148 million to settle charges that the bank reaped millions of dollars in profits by rigging bids in the municipal securities market, one of several such settlements announced last year by the two agencies.

In the Justice Department settlement, Wachovia said it “admits, acknowledges and accepts responsibility for” manipulating the bidding process in the sale of derivatives on tax-exempt bonds to institutional investors like cities, hospitals and pension plans over a six-year period ending in 2004.

But in fashioning a settlement with the S.E.C. based on the same facts, Wachovia agreed to settle the charges “without admitting or denying the allegations.”

When the SEC alone is settling a case, they will still use the vague, guilt-evading language, which helps protect companies from shareholder lawsuits, so let's not consider this too big of a victory for the proverbial little guy.