Publisher: The Intercept
Author: David Dayen

Faced with unrelenting criticism from financial reform groups for failing to enforce the securities laws, SEC Chair Mary Jo White has defended herself with numbers.

Regarding the SEC enforcement numbers, the Securities and Exchange Commission recorded 755 different enforcement actions yielding $4.1 billion in monetary penalties in 2014, she boasted in a speech this February — “the highest number of cases in the history of the Commission.”

But the numbers she cited were “deeply flawed,” according to a study that will soon be published in the Cornell Law Review. The commission’s methodology allows for double – and even triple-counting some offenders — along with counting fines ordered by other agencies, and penalties that are never collected.

If you weed out the systematic over-counting and artificial boosts, the SEC’s enforcement numbers have not significantly changed since 2002, despite the multitude of lawbreaking that led to the 2008 financial crisis, according to the study.

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