SEC chief vows 2014 crackdown

The head of the Securities and Exchange Commission said Monday the agency would demand more admissions of guilt from Wall Street’s bad actors this year as part of what she vowed would be an “incredibly active” enforcement program.

SEC Chairwoman Mary Jo White’s remarks come in spite of this month’s approval of spending legislation that denied the administration’s request for a significant funding boost for the agency.

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“The coming year promises to be an incredibly active year in enforcement, as we continue to vigorously pursue wrongdoers and bring enforcement actions across the entire industry spectrum,” White said during a speech in California, according to prepared remarks.

White said the agency would ratchet up its new policy of requiring guilt in admissions from wrongdoers as part of settlement agreements. 

So called “no admit/no deny settlements” became commonplace in recent years for cases brought by financial regulators, in large part because they were seen as yielding intended results, including civil penalties and compensation for investors, more quickly.

But in the aftermath of the 2008 economic recession, government investigators have been under increased pressure to require admissions of guilt that remove any question of the defendants’ part in alleged financial crimes.

“As we go forward in 2014, you will see more cases involving admissions,” White said.

White said the agency would likely wrap of the last its major investigations stemming from the financial crisis this year, allowing investigators to shift their focus to other fraud cases and schemes to undermine the integrity of financial markets.

The agency will pursue those priorities with a $1.38 billion budget — far below the $1.674 billion sought by the administration.

Though a small increase from previous levels, spokesman John Nester said the funding was insufficient and would hamper a variety of initiatives, including enforcement.