U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission is Open For Business

The financial watchdog has enough money to remain open "for a few weeks" during the U.S. government shutdown

  • Share
  • Read Later
Jonathan Ernst / Reuters

The seal of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission hangs on the wall at SEC headquarters in Washington.

The United States Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), the nation’s top securities regulator and financial watchdog, will stay open for business Tuesday during the federal government shutdown, a SEC spokesperson confirmed to TIME on Monday afternoon. All employees will be reporting for work, normal operations will continue, and there will be no furloughs. At least not yet.

It’s business as usual, the spokesperson said. That could change, however, if the federal government shutdown drags on.

“The SEC will be able to stay open in the event of a funding lapse because we have carryover funds available,” SEC spokesperson John Nester said in a statement emailed to TIME. “Unlike most other agencies, our appropriations language provides that our funds ‘remain available until expended.’ It is not uncommon for us to have carryover balances at the end of a fiscal year, and we have determined that our carryover balances are sufficient to allow us to remain open for a few weeks if there is a lapse of appropriations.”

According to the agency, any changes to the SEC’s “operational status” after October 1 will be announced on its website.

House Republicans wanted to delay implementation of the Affordable Care Act (also known as Obamacare) as part of a deal to keep the government running. They failed. On Monday afternoon, the Democratically-controlled Senate stripped the anti-Obamacare language from the House temporary spending bill, all but ensuring that huge swaths of the federal government that are considered “non-essential” would close.

House Republicans planned to take one more shot at attempting to delay Obamacare as a condition of keeping the government open. Late Monday night, Senate Democrats sent the House bill back. Shortly before midnight, the Office of Management and Budget informed federal agencies to execute their shut-down contingency plans. On Tuesday, an estimated 800,000 federal workers will be fourloughed.

(MOREApple Beats Google, Coke as Best Brand)

Although the SEC is not as well-known as cabinet-level federal agencies like the Departments of Defense, Justice, and State, the SEC’s role in the U.S. government — not to mention the national and global economy — is critical. Late last week, the SEC published a contingency plan in case the agency shuts down, but that plan will not go into effect on Tuesday. It’s important to note that the contingency plan only pertains to a SEC shutdown, not an overall U.S. government shutdown.

The SEC performs the crucial task of maintaining “fair, orderly, and efficient” operation of financial markets for the world’s largest economy. The SEC oversees the key players in the U.S. financial markets, including the major Wall Street investment banks, mutual funds and hedge funds, as well as equity markets — like the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE Euronext) and NASDAQ — and the various commodities markets.

The SEC has the responsibility of promoting market transparency in order to ensure fair dealing and to protect against fraud. The agency also undertakes actions in order to enforce the various securities laws, including the Securities Act of 1933, the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002, the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2010, and the Jumpstart Our Business Startups Act of 2012 (JOBS).

The SEC has recently been involved in a number of high-profile enforcement actions. In July, the agency announced charges against billionaire hedge fund mogul Steven A. Cohen, alleging that he failed to supervise two of his employees accused of insider trading. In August, billionaire hedge-fund manager Phil Falcone admitted to “multiple acts of misconduct” that harmed investors and agreed to pay more than $18 million as part of a deal to settle a SEC investigation.

(MORE: Don’t Expect Troubled Tech Companies to Start Going Private)

That same month, former Goldman Sachs bond trader Fabrice Tourre, once known as “Fabulous Fab,” was found liable for fraud in the SEC’s most high-profile court victory related to the subprime mortgage meltdown. (Tourre became a symbol of Wall Street hubris after boasting that he sold toxic mortgage assets to “widows and orphans.”)

More recently, Wall Street titan JPMorgan agreed to settle SEC charges related to last year’s “London Whale” trading fiasco by paying a $200 million penalty and publicly acknowledging that it violated the federal securities laws, as part of a $920 million global settlement. Since taking charge of the SEC earlier this year, Mary Jo White, a no-nonsense former U.S. federal prosecutor, has made clear that public accountability often requires an admission of guilt.

The SEC is involved in dozens of litigation proceedings every year, and at any given time is pursuing multiple investigations related to financial fraud.

0 comments