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Matthew C. Solomon has significant experience in complex and high-stakes civil and criminal matters, having served for 15 years with the U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission—including most recently as the SEC’s Chief Litigation Counsel.

As we enter 2021, shareholder activism continues to evolve. The traditional campaigns waged by repeat activists leveling familiar critiques will undoubtedly persist into the new year and beyond. But by now most companies are well-versed in the old activist playbook and have developed their own game plan.
Continue Reading Priorities, Trends and Developments in Enforcement and Compliance

On September 30, 2020, amidst a blizzard of cases filed at the end of the Securities and Exchange Commission’s fiscal year, the SEC announced a settlement with BGC Partners, Inc. (“BGC”) involving allegedly misleading disclosures concerning how it calculated a key non-GAAP financial measure (“NGFM”).[1]   This settlement is the latest in a string of enforcement actions relating to what the SEC views as improper uses of NGFMs.  In advance of year-end reporting, this action is a useful reminder to companies to carefully consider the SEC guidance and recent enforcement actions related to NGFMs.  At least 95% of all Fortune 500 companies publish NGFMs, and the SEC has indicated that it will be reviewing NGFMs with particular scrutiny this year-end in light of the challenges of reporting on performance during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Continue Reading SEC Brings Enforcement Action Against Global Brokerage Company, Finding False and Misleading Statements In Connection With Non-GAAP Financial Measures

On the eve of the U.S. presidential election last week, the SEC Enforcement Division released its annual report for fiscal year 2020 (the “Report”), providing an overview of the Division’s enforcement figures, developments, and areas of focus in what Director Stephanie Avakian described as “the most challenging year in recent memory.”[1]  This past year has marked, together with the longest shutdown in government history the year prior, a challenging but reasonably productive time for the SEC’s enforcement program.  Just as last year’s report highlighted the Division’s struggles during the fiscal shutdown, the final annual report of the Clayton-led SEC focuses on the significant disruption the COVID-19 pandemic has caused to the Division’s operations, investigations, and priorities, including the suspension of testimony for several months, establishment of a Coronavirus Steering Committee, and redirection of resources toward COVID-related fraud.  This time around, however, the Division could not avoid a drop-off in the number of enforcement cases, which seems attributable at least in part to the pandemic and its profound impact on the SEC’s operations.
Continue Reading From Government Shutdown to COVID-19: SEC Enforcement Division Releases Final Chapter of Jay Clayton-led SEC

Late last week – for the first time in 40 years – the SEC announced a settlement of an internal controls case against an issuer arising from its repurchase of its own shares. The SEC found that Andeavor bought back $250 million of stock without first engaging in an adequate process to ensure that the

On September 15, 2020, the Securities and Exchange Commission issued a cease‑and‑desist order against Unikrn, Inc. concerning its 2017 initial coin offering  of UnikoinGold .  The SEC found that the Unikrn ICO violated the prohibition in Section 5 of the Securities Act of 1933 against the unregistered public offer or sale of securities.  The SEC imposed several remedies, including requiring Unikrn to permanently disable the UnikoinGold token and a civil money penalty of $6.1 million.
Continue Reading SEC Issues Enforcement Action Against Unikrn, Inc. for its ICO, Prompting Rare Public Dissent from Commissioner Hester Peirce

On June 22, 2020, the Supreme Court held in Liu v. SEC that the Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) may seek, and courts have the power to grant, disgorgement as an equitable remedy for violations of the securities laws. However, the Court also placed potentially important limitations on disgorgement, holding that—to qualify as an equitable

On May 7, 2020, the Supreme Court unanimously held in Kelly v. United States that the “Bridgegate” political retribution scheme did not violate the wire fraud or federal-program fraud statutes. Although the government proved that the defendants devised and facilitated the closing of multiple lanes of the George Washington Bridge in September 2013, resulting in

On April 3, 2020, the SEC’s Chief Accountant, Sagar Teotia, issued a Statement on the Importance of High-Quality Financial Reporting in Light of the Significant Impacts of COVID-19 (the “OCA Statement”).  The OCA Statement emphasizes that while the SEC Office of the Chief Accountant (“OCA”) appreciates the challenging environment that companies and their auditors face in attempting to comply with their financial reporting obligations due to COVID-19[1], and will not second-guess their reasonable judgments, OCA expects financial reporting to continue to “provide investors with high-quality financial information.”  The OCA Statement also reaffirms OCA’s views on the importance of gatekeepers by pointing out the critical need for auditor independence in this uncertain economic environment.  In addition to this general theme, the OCA Statement contains several notable points that will have implications for companies in the current situation, both in preparing their financial statements, and in taking steps to mitigate litigation and enforcement risk.
Continue Reading SEC Chief Accountant Weighs in on Accounting Issues During the COVID-19 Outbreak

The Second Circuit has made it easier for federal prosecutors to bring insider-trading cases.  In United States v. Blaszczak, decided on December 30, 2019, the Court held that the personal-benefit test—a judge-made rule that the government must prove a tipper expected to receive some benefit in exchange for disclosing confidential information—does not apply to

On November 6, 2019, the SEC’s Division of Enforcement released its annual report (the “Report”) describing its enforcement actions from fiscal year 2019.[1]  Like prior reports, the Report quantifies the Division’s activities in a number of ways and discusses priority areas going forward.  The Report also brings front-and-center certain challenges the Division has faced – including difficulties navigating recent Supreme Court decisions that call into question the constitutionality of the SEC’s administrative proceedings and the agency’s ability to obtain disgorgement, as well as the impact of the government shut-down and general resource constraints.
Continue Reading Headwinds and Shifting Priorities: Beyond the Numbers In The SEC Enforcement Division’s 2019 Annual Report