What could be intimidating about this?
Over the last couple of years, people found wanting by the SEC have been complaining about how they were found wanting, i.e., in administrative proceedings before judges hired and paid by the SEC, which they say is unfair. This argument would certainly be buoyed by evidence that the SEC’s judges are, in fact, harder on defendants than actual judges. Here is that evidence:
The SEC won against 90% of defendants before its own judges in contested cases from October 2010 through March of this year, according to the Journal analysis. That was markedly higher than the 69% success the agency obtained against defendants in federal court over the same period, based on SEC data.
On appeal, it does even better, winning 95% of the time against 84% of the time in federal court, and often with a little bump in the penalties imposed. The SEC says this is no big deal, because it only throws softball cases at its own five judges.
The SEC says its judges are impartial and the process is fair. It attributes the difference in outcomes partly to case mix. For instance, most of its complicated insider-trading cases have been heard in federal court, not by its in-house judges.
Also: None of the above matters, because the SEC can do whatever they want under the law, the law in question being all of five years old.
SEC officials say they also are sending increasing numbers of contested lawsuits to their own judges, reflecting enhanced powers granted by the 2010 Dodd-Frank financial legislation. The law allowed the SEC to seek financial penalties in administrative proceedings from firms and people not under its regulatory purview.