Of course, the SEC’s enforcement efforts are not unaffected by COVID-19. The SEC’s cases in active litigation are being impacted by the various court closures and related delays throughout the country. In addition, like many of us, SEC enforcement staff is working from home and facing significant travel restrictions. The Co-Directors recently held a virtual town meeting for Division of Enforcement staff where they stressed that work must go on but acknowledged inevitable challenges and delays. They encouraged the staff to do their best under the circumstances and be accommodating within reason.
Where the COVID-19 crisis will likely have the biggest impact is situations that would normally call for face-to-face interaction. This includes investigative testimony as well as meetings with the staff such as Wells meetings, pre-Wells meetings, evidence reviews and attorney proffers. Initially, the staff delayed or rescheduled testimony and in-person meetings to later this spring. In many instances, they are now requesting that testimony and other in person meetings go forward telephonically, by video conference, or via web-based programs. In some instances, the staff has agreed to accept informal phone interviews or attorney proffers in lieu of official sworn testimony. Companies and individuals who are involved in ongoing investigations should expect requests of this nature going forward.