Challenging the SEC in Federal Court: Recent Developments in Case Law and Practice Notes

12 Oct , 2021

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Challenging an ongoing investigation by the SEC is a daunting task, particularly for those identified as subjects of the investigation. Two recent holdings, one by the Third Circuit in Gentile v. Sec. & Exch. Comm’n, 2020 WL 5416297 (3d Cir. Sept. 10, 2020) and the other by the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey in Sec. & Exch. Comm’n v. Gentile, 16-cv-01619-BRM-JAD (Order Sept. 29, 2020), both of which involved the same parties, offer some clarification on when and how best to mount such a challenge. The Third Circuit’s opinion makes clear that the SEC’s ability to investigate is one of the “rare circumstances” in which an agency’s action is exempt from the waiver of sovereign immunity that might otherwise apply under the Administrative Procedure Act and, as a result, is not subject to judicial review. By contrast, the district court’s opinion reinforces that, once an investigation results in an enforcement action in federal court, the SEC is subject to the court’s rules and review as any other litigant. Taken together, these opinions present both practitioners and those in the securities industry with useful guidance in when and how to challenge the SEC.

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