SEC official breaks down agency calculus for off-channel comms penalties

SEC office

The deputy director of the Division of Enforcement at the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) discussed the agency’s rationale for issuing widely disparate penalties for off-channel communications recordkeeping violations, as well as violations of its amended marketing rule.

During remarks delivered Wednesday at the agency’s SEC Speaks event, Sanjay Wadhwa noted the SEC has charged nearly 60 firms—including investment advisers, broker-dealers, and credit ratings agencies—and levied nearly $1.7 billion in penalties for recordkeeping violations related to use of off-channel communications by employees for conducting business. The agency’s fines have ranged from as high as $125 million for some of the country’s largest banks, including JPMorgan Chase, Citi, Goldman Sachs, and Bank of America, to less than $3 million for some firms.

Wadhwa said the agency is not “picking numbers at random,” as some critics have suggested. The penalties are individualized for each firm. For recordkeeping violations, he said the agency considers:

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