What Is the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC)?

What Is the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC)?

By Charles Joseph | Editor, Financial Affairs
Reviewed by Corey Michael | Senior Financial Analyst

The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) is an independent agency of the United States government that oversees the regulation of the securities industry. It was established by the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 during the Great Depression to restore trust in the financial markets. The SEC’s primary task is protecting investors by ensuring fair and efficient markets. It maintains the stability of the financial system by enforcing disclosure laws and combating fraudulent practices. The SEC demands public companies to disclose vital financial and other information for the public and stakeholders, which forms a common pool of knowledge for all investors to use to judge for themselves whether to buy, sell, or hold a particular security.

Related Questions

1. What are the main responsibilities of the SEC?

The main responsibilities of the SEC are to protect investors, maintain fair, orderly, and efficient markets, and to facilitate capital formation. They carry out these responsibilities by overseeing securities exchanges, securities brokers and dealers, investment advisors, and mutual funds through a comprehensive regulatory program.

2. How does the SEC protect investors?

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The SEC is dedicated to ensuring full disclosure of material information that investors need to make informed decisions. This includes details regarding the company’s financial health, operations, and leadership. It takes action against individuals and companies for fraudulent or deceptive practices, like insider trading.

3. What does ‘SEC filing’ mean?

An ‘SEC filing’ is a financial statement or other formal document that public companies are required to submit to the SEC. The documents provide a detailed account of a company’s performance and include information such as quarterly earnings, acquisitions, and shareholder changes.

4. Who does the SEC regulate?

The SEC regulates a wide variety of financial professionals. They include securities exchanges, securities brokers and dealers, investment advisors, and mutual funds. The SEC also regulates public and private companies issuing securities and individuals who trade securities.

5. What happens if securities laws are violated?

When securities laws are violated, the SEC has the authority to bring a civil action in a U.S. District Court or an administrative proceeding which is heard by an independent administrative law judge (ALJ). In severe cases, it can lead to heavy fines, disgorgement of illegal profits, or sanctions including the suspension of the right to trade securities.