When she was appointed, I was cautiously optimistic that Mary Jo White was going to bring a tougher attitude to enforcement at the Securities and Exchange Commission. Today we get a sign of that happened and she’s sent out a memo urging an end to the practice of reaching settlements in which the defendant doesn’t admit wrongdoing.
In brass tacks terms, one might wonder how much this matters. Is a fine plus an admission of guilt really so much worse than a fine plus a “neither admit nor deny” wrongdoing? But I do think that symbols matters. This is a statement both internally and externally that the S.E.C. wants enforcement actions to be understood as a serious thing that’s about halting serious wrongdoing, not just a bunch of fussy bureaucratic compliance. Good for her.