Recent SEC Settlement Evidences Agency’s Continued Aggressive Enforcement of Conflicts of Interest

The SEC recently released an order instituting administrative cease-and-desist proceedings against an investment adviser, following claims by the Commission that the adviser allowed its representatives to breach their fiduciary duty toward its clients. The conflicts of interest alleged by the SEC in this matter are serious, involving deliberate promotion and marketing of certain classes of shares whose value did not surpass that of other classes of shares that clients could have purchased for a markedly lower price and without having to pay certain marketing fees. This enforcement action affirms the SEC’s continuing commitment to stamping out conflicts of interest, as set forth in the influential 2015 “Conflicts, Conflicts Everywhere” speech delivered by Julie M. Riewe, then Co-Chief of the SEC’s Division of Asset Management. See “Conflicts Remain an Overarching Concern for the SEC’s Asset Management Unit” (Mar. 12, 2015). To help readers understand the enforcement action and the issues involved, this article analyzes the SEC’s cease-and-desist order and includes insights from legal practitioners at the forefront of interactions between the financial sector and the regulators. For another enforcement action involving inappropriate recommendations of certain mutual fund shares, see “$97 Million SEC Settlement Highlights Perils of Inaccurate Disclosures and the Agency’s Continued Focus on Conflicts of Interest and Client Overcharges” (May 25, 2017).

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