SEC Commissioner Luis A. Aguilar will depart the SEC at the end of this month after serving as a commissioner for over seven years. With his last day at the SEC quickly approaching, Commissioner Aguilar posted an interesting statement on the SEC's website this week in which he shared some observations about how the SEC has evolved during his tenure.
Commissioner Aguilar was sworn in on July 31, 2008 -- just before I began writing this "Enforcement Action" blog for Compliance Week in September 2008. As he notes in his statement this week, this was precisely the time that Lehman Brothers collapsed, the global financial crisis exploded, and the massive Bernard Madoff Ponzi scheme came to light.
The combination of all of these events in late 2008 created a perfect storm in which, Aguilar notes, "the continuing existence of the Commission was a matter of serious speculation. Thus, whether by coincidence or circumstance—some would say a fate of timing—it is not surprising that my tenure has corresponded with one of the most transformational periods in the SEC’s august history." Aguilar adds that as the only commissioner remaining from the time when Lehman Brothers fell, "I may offer a unique perspective of the path that has been traveled."
Aguilar walks through a lengthy list of 11 improvements to the Commission’s internal structure and processes that have occurred since 2008. I urge you to review his statement for the full details, but the significant enforcement-related improvements he cites include:
the restructuring of the Enforcement Division in 2010 that created specialized units focused on Asset Management, Market Abuse, Complex Financial Instruments, the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, and Municipal Securities and Public Pensions;
the Office of the Whistleblower;
the Office of Market Intelligence;
the Center for Risk and Quantitative Analytics, which helps the Enforcement Division aggregate and analyze large amounts of data from varied sources; and
key task forces including the Financial Reporting and Audit Task Force, the Microcap Fraud Task Force, and the JOBS Act Task Force.
In addition, Aguilar noted some interesting personal facts. During his tenure, Aguilar:
served with four different Chairs;
served with six different Commissions, five General Counsels, and at least three different heads of each of the SEC’s major division and offices. In addition, the head of each of the SEC’s eleven regional offices changed at least once; and
gave more than 250 public statements or speeches to the public, including more than 130 public speeches and presentations.
Finally, Aguilar -- who was born in Cuba and whose parents sent him to the U.S. at the age of six (speaking not a word of English) because they feared for his safety -- highlighted his efforts to improve the Commission’s diversity. During his tenure, Aguilar noted, he served as the inaugural Chair for the first SEC Diversity Council, and as the sponsor for the Hispanic and Latino Opportunity, Leadership, and Advocacy Committee, the African American Council, and the Caribbean American Heritage Committee.