The job of federal regulators is to, well, regulate. Their responsibility is to keep companies in line and when they step out of line, to punish them. And, according to Matthew Boxer, chair of the Corporate Investigations and Integrity Practice at Lowenstein Sandler LLP, regulators have grown increasingly aggressive with those punishments in recent years, in two different areas.
“The first is increasingly large fines and assessments that agencies are seeking from a civil enforcement perspective,” he explains. “Another example of aggressive regulatory actions is an increased focus on individuals at companies, including the threat of criminal sanctions against individuals.”
As part of this more aggressive stance, agencies are working together, an example being the partnership between Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and the Department of Justice coordinating investigations of Foreign Corrupt Practices Act violations (FCPA). In addition, U.S. regulators are working with overseas regulators, something that was less common a decade ago.
Boxer explains agencies like the SEC have focused on certain subject matter areas, like accounting issues, internal controls and insider trading. And, while being aggressive, these agencies have not been uncooperative, fielding request from the regulated community to clarify what areas of business need improvement. The regulators pass this information along because it is another way to improve conduct of the entities they are regulating.