How to File a Complaint With the SEC
The U.S. economy has moved in recent decades from a manufacturing focus to a finance focus. More than ever, Americans are participating in the stock market and using investing as a tool to accumulate funds for major purchases, education and life’s other big expenses. Because of this economic shift, the functions of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) are more important than ever. The SEC’s mission is to protect investors and maintain fair and orderly markets. By allowing investors to report fraud and other misconduct by investment professionals is one of the many ways in which the SEC works toward its goals.
As part of protecting investors, the SEC oversees the key participants in the investment world, including securities brokers, broker-dealer firms and investment advisors. If you believe you have been defrauded or otherwise harmed by an investment professional, you may be able to report the misconduct to the SEC for a comprehensive investigation.
A complaint filed with the SEC is not the same as a civil suit filed in arbitration or court. The SEC investigates the allegations in the complaint and may bring charges against the wrongdoer, but it does not always result in a return of an investor’s losses. To recoup a full range of damages, an investor should consult an attorney to determine if filing a civil action is in the investor’s best interest.
Filing a Complaint With the SEC
The SEC provides online tools that allow members of the public to file securities-related complaints electronically. Before doing so, however, it is wise to discuss the situation with an experienced securities lawyer. Attorneys at Girard Bengali, APC, can help you gather the information you will need to make an effective complaint to regulators.
The SEC online form for reporting suspected securities fraud or other wrongdoing is located here. When you file the complaint, you will be expected to provide various types of information, including:
- Your personal identifying information.
- Background information on your broker/advisor.
- A description of what actions have caused you to file a complaint.
- A description of any legal action you have already taken regarding the alleged misconduct.
What Types of Conduct Can I Report?
The SEC encourages reporting of any potential violation of securities laws, which may include actions such as:
- Operation of a Ponzi scheme.
- Providing misleading or incomplete stock information.
- Theft or embezzlement.
- Manipulating a stock’s price or volume.
- Bribing foreign officials.
- Insider trading.
- Many other types of investment professional misconduct.
What Does the SEC Do with My Complaint?
How the SEC responds to your complaint depends on the type of misconduct you describe. Different types of misconduct are handled by different offices within the SEC.
In some situations, the SEC may send the case to its Division of Enforcement. This office handles allegations of major securities law violations. The attorneys within the enforcement division can take a wide variety of actions, from filing civil cases against the wrongdoer to referring the case to the Department of Justice for a criminal investigation into the broker’s actions.
In other situations, the SEC may refer the case to its Office of Investor Education and Advocacy, which helps investors start FINRA arbitration claims, among other things.
Confidentiality is Key
The SEC maintains a strict confidentiality policy. In fact, it is so strict that after you file a complaint you may have a difficult time obtaining information about your own case. In addition, the SEC rarely releases any case information to the public until charges are filed against the broker/firm. If no action is ultimately taken, then the public never knows that a complaint was filed in the first place.
Filing an SEC Complaint Is Often Not Enough.
For victims of securities misconduct, relying entirely on the SEC is rarely a good idea. The SEC, as helpful as it can be, is still a large bureaucracy where things can get lost, which is quite common in all but the most major fraud cases. The SEC complaint on its own will likely not be enough to help you recover what you have lost.
Retaining a securities lawyer allows you to pursue multiple avenues of justice. For example, if you were defrauded by an advisor or broker, your attorney can represent you in FINRA, JAMS or AAA arbitration (as arbitration is most often required in these cases) or in court.
Get Help From Our Skilled SEC Lawyers
Girard Bengali, APC is dedicated to protecting the rights of investors. If you believe you want to file an SEC complaint against your advisor or broker, talk to us first. We’ll analyze the situation, help you through the process, and develop a plan to maximize your chances of success. You can arrange a meeting with our securities fraud lawyers by calling 866-778-6821 or by sending us an email.