The Legal Penalties for Financial Misrepresentation
Jonathan M. Karpoff
University of Washington - Michael G. Foster School of Business
D. Scott Lee
University of Nevada, Las Vegas - Lee Business School
Gerald S. Martin
American University - Kogod School of Business
May 2, 2007
This paper provides the first integrated analysis of the complex mix of private and regulatory penalties for financial misrepresentation. We examine the sizes, types, and determinants of legal penalties imposed for all 697 enforcement actions initiated by the Securities and Exchange Commission for financial misrepresentation from 1978 through 2004. These penalties include private class action awards, monetary penalties imposed by the SEC and Department of Justice, and such non-monetary sanctions as censures, trading suspensions, and jail time. Contrary to many criticisms of private lawsuits and regulatory actions, we find that legal penalties are highly systematic, and in particular, are positively related to the size and severity of the harm from the misconduct. The data also indicate deep pockets effects, as both private and regulatory monetary penalties are related to defendants' abilities to pay. A recent increase in regulatory penalties has coincided with a decrease in private monetary penalties, consistent with regulatory penalties crowding out the use of private penalties.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 55
Keywords: Fraud, penalties, Securities and Exchange Commission, financial misrepresentation
JEL Classification: G38, K22, K42, M41, M43
Date posted: September 29, 2006
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