The vast majority of these investigations are not urgent, as evidenced by their current “five-year best” average duration of “only” 21.6 months. And many SEC investigations are completed without the need to issue subpoenas at all. For those exceptionally rare cases requiring urgent subpoena power, today’s technology and streamlined internal procedures can easily enable commissioners to be adequately briefed, and to give their personal sign-off, within a matter of minutes.
If we still value accountability in government agencies, that shouldn’t be too much to ask. After-the-fact briefing by the staff is not enough. In my last few years at the SEC, commissioners didn’t just personally sign off on every staff request for a formal investigation conferring subpoena power; they put those requests on the SEC’s internal nonpublic calendar for in-person discussion with the requesting staff members. That added a few extra days of homework and delay for the requesting staff, but it introduced a refreshing era of commissioner engagement and personal accountability at the outset of investigations.
‘Enforcement 40’ for 2020
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