| WASHINGTON, June 11
WASHINGTON, June 11 The U.S. Securities and
Exchange Commission expects to start filing some insider-trading
cases in an in-house court rather than federal court, dismissing
concerns by defense lawyers that this shift from past practice
would be unfair.
"I do think we will bring insider-trading cases as
administrative proceedings in appropriate cases," Andrew
Ceresney, head of the SEC enforcement division, told the
District of Columbia Bar on Wednesday. "We have in the past. It
has been pretty rare. I think there will be more going forward."
The SEC has historically filed insider-trading cases in
federal courts because the law barred it from seeking penalties
in its own court against employees of firms it did not regulate
directly, such as brokerages.
But that changed in 2010, when the Dodd-Frank law granted
the regulator power to seek financial penalties against a wider
array of defendants, including public company employees.
That has given the SEC greater incentive to file more
administrative cases, though few so far have involved insider
trading. One, against former Goldman Sachs Group Inc
director Rajat Gupta, was originally filed administratively, but
later dismissed and re-filed in federal court.
Defense lawyers often complain that SEC administrative
proceedings lack procedural protections available in federal
courts, including the ability to take depositions, spend more
time gathering evidence, and present cases to juries.
"Administrative proceedings lack these important features,"
said Stephen Crimmins, a partner at K&L Gates in Washington,
D.C. and former SEC trial attorney.
"Prosecuting insider trading cases in administrative
proceedings would be a significant change."
Critics also say the administrative proceedings process is
conflicted because defendants must appear before the same
five-member commission that authorized enforcement actions
before they can appeal to a federal court.
Ceresney dismissed such concerns, saying administrative
proceedings are fair.
The SEC's planned shift follows a string of recent trial
losses involving insider trading.
On June 6, a federal jury found Manouchehr Moshayedi, the
former chief executive of computer storage device company sTec
Inc, not liable for trading on inside information ahead of a
secondary stock offering.
About a week earlier, a Manhattan federal jury found
Wynnefield Capital Inc fund manager Nelson Obus not liable on an
SEC claim that he traded on inside information about a takeover,
in a case that had dragged on for a decade.
Obus told Reuters in an interview Wednesday he was "shocked"
and said administrative proceedings are a "kangaroo court."
"It makes me feel that they can't win in court with a jury
of one's peers," he said.
Ceresney said filing insider-trading cases administratively
is not a reaction to recent losses, and the SEC will still use
federal courts because it can win higher penalties there.
But he conceded that even the threat of bringing cases
in-house has had an impact.
"There have been a number of cases in recent months where we
had threatened administrative proceeding ... and they settled,"
he said, referring to defendants.
(Reporting by Sarah N. Lynch in Washington; additional
reporting by Nate Raymond in New York; editing by Jonathan
Stempel and Tom Brown)