SEC Headquarters - Washington, DCSEC Investigations

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) investigates violations of the federal securities laws. These investigations are generally nonpublic. If contacted by the SEC, it is important to know that:

  • All enforcement actions brought by the SEC are civil in nature. The SEC has no authority to bring criminal cases.
  • During an investigation, the SEC may request that you voluntarily provide documents and testimony, or they may be required in response to an actual subpoena.
  • The SEC has broad subpoena power.

Whether you have been contacted informally, or served with a subpoena — you should retain an experienced lawyer to help you through the investigatory process.

How you respond to the initial inquiry, and how you manage the events as the investigation unfolds, can significantly impact the outcome of the investigation.

If contacted, you should not have substantive discussions with the investigators. If you chose to ignore this rule, you must be truthful as any false statements can be the basis for a separate felony charge.

Once contacted, you must make sure that documents and emails are not destroyed. Destroying evidence after learning of an investigation will often make the outcome much worse and could lead to criminal charges.

What is a wells notice?

When the SEC staff believes that charges are appropriate, it will send you a “Wells notice.” This notice will: (1) inform you that the staff has made a preliminary determination to recommend that the Commission file an action or institute a proceeding; (2) identify the securities law violations that the staff has preliminarily determined to include in the recommendation; and (3) advise you of your right to make a submission to the Division and the Commission concerning the proposed recommendation.

As a recipient of a Wells notice you may ask to review non-privileged portions of the staff’s investigative file as well as request a meeting with the staff to discuss the substance of the allegations.

How can we help you?

  • by managing the process to minimize the impact on your business.
  • by contacting the enforcement staff to learn as much as possible about nature and scope of the investigation.
  • by helping you prepare for any informal interview or subsequent testimony in response in any administrative or judicial enforcement action.
  • by working to negotiate a favorable resolution or settlement of the matter.

Contact Us

To discuss how we can help you with any SEC matter, contact us by email or call 601-957-3101.