Deep Dive Episode 3 – SEC Increased Use of Administrative Proceedings and “The $2,200 Man”
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In many federal investigations, a regulatory agency must bring legal action against a company or individual through the traditional court system. However, some regulatory agencies, like the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), have a powerful alternative – administrative proceedings. Rather than filing a lawsuit in federal court, the SEC can institute an administrative proceeding, which is presided over by an Administrative Law Judge. In doing so, the SEC can put nearly any company or individual at a distinct litigation disadvantage, depriving them of significant rights and thereby increasing its own chances of success.
Take for instance, the case of Eric Wanger. In 2010, Mr. Wanger ran a multi-family office, employed 11 people, published articles on finance, and campaigned for shareholder rights. The SEC claimed that Mr. Wanger overcharged his clients by exactly $2,269, about $70 per month – possibly the smallest case the SEC has ever undertaken. No charges were ever filed against Mr. Wanger, and no hearings or trial were held. He never pleaded guilty or admitted to breaking any laws. The SEC instead, instituted administrative proceedings which forced Mr. Wanger to shut down his business and layoff his employees, and has since barred him from practicing his profession.
You can also read more about Mr. Wanger’s story on his blog at https://2200dollarman.org.