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Can I Be Charged with a Crime by the SEC?


The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) is the federal agency primarily responsible for enforcing federal securities laws. Like many other federal agencies, its role in overseeing the industry and enforcing regulations can seem ambiguous to some, or overwhelming and intrusive to others. In simple terms and for the purpose of understanding how the agency functions, the SEC’s top priorities are to protect investors, maintain fair and orderly markets, and facilitate capital formation.

As part of this mission, the SEC is a major player in identifying misconduct and financial crimes, especially those involving the purchase or sale of stocks, options, and commodities. The SEC can and does take serious action against offenders, but what many people do not know is that those actions are civil in nature, and are typically limited to substantial civil fines and sanctions.

While the SEC itself may not be able to bring formal criminal charges as an administrative regulatory agency, it does commonly partner with the FBI to aid in criminal investigations. When the FBI becomes involved, the stakes in any investigation are elevated far beyond fines and civil penalties. The feds can take immediate and severe action to charge individuals with federal crimes.

Examples of such crimes include:

  • Fraud – FBI / SEC investigations commonly result in fraud charges. The type of charge and the potential penalties depend on what alleged criminal conduct has taken place, but often include indictments for white collar crimes such as mail fraud, wire fraud, and other related crimes that facilitate securities fraud.
  • Money Laundering – Federal authorities and prosecutors have demonstrated a willingness to actively and aggressively prosecute suspects for money laundering, a federal offense that involves the concealment or transferring of criminal proceeds through unlawful transactions or transmissions with financial institutions. Money laundering is a federal crime punishable by what can be significant terms of imprisonment, sometimes up to decades in prison.
  • Insider Trading – Federal regulators and authorities have become increasingly focused on insider trading, an offense that involves the trading of securities or stock using confidential or non-public information. It is not uncommon for defendants to be sentenced to multiple-year prison terms when convicted of insider trading.

Playing the market and investing your money is a legal and often admirable financially opportunistic endeavor, as long as it is done within the law. Because the SEC is so strongly focused on protecting market integrity, however, they have become aggressive and sophisticated in monitoring and identifying irregular patterns that may suggest unfair and unlawful conduct. When these irregularities are found, they can result in further inquiries, criminal investigations with the FBI and other federal authorities, and the potential for serious indictments and potential penalties.

Protect Your Rights During a White Collar Crime Investigation or Indictment

There is no understating the seriousness of an SEC inquiry and any subsequent investigation or indictment. If you or someone you love is contacted by the SEC or made aware of an investigation, the time to act is now.

Given the potential penalties and life-altering consequences at stake, immediate legal representation from proven defense attorneys skilled in handling federal cases and white collar crimes is crucial. These cases are complex matters with specific considerations, and they demand a diligent and detailed approach when communicating with regulators and authorities, intervening and negotiating, exploring options for defense, and pursuing the most positive outcome possible.

By involving a defense team like Friedman Nemecek Long & Grant, L.L.C., L.L.C. Attorneys at Law, you can benefit from decades of collective experience and the insight of nationally recognized attorneys who earned their reputation by handling challenging and high stakes criminal cases. To request a free and confidential consultation about your rights and potential defense options, contact us today. Our firm serves clients throughout Ohio and the state of Ohio, and has worked cases on a national and international level.