U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, long known for settling enforcement actions without having to prove its case in court, is struggling to cope with a surge in the number of executives and companies willing to go to trial to defend themselves.
The SEC’s office in Washington is actively litigating about 90 cases, up more than 50 percent in the past year, Matthew Martens, the SEC’s chief litigation counsel, said in an interview. At the same time, Martens’ trial unit staff has stayed relatively flat at about 36. He recently added three more lawyers to his group and is looking to hire more.
Martens said its critical that his unit present a credible threat. “At the end of the day, if we can’t win cases, then people don’t settle. That’s the reality,” he said.