Securities and Exchange Commission Chair Mary Jo White told a Senate panel Tuesday she would be “delighted” if Congress gave the agency the ability to send violators to jail.
Currently, the SEC can only pursue civil penalties in court, and through its administrative law judges and settlements.
At the federal level, only the U.S. Department of Justice can file criminal charges against securities law miscreants, while some state securities agencies have both criminal and civil powers.
Giving the SEC criminal authority is not under discussion in Congress now and was not a possibility openly discussed in the development of the Dodd-Frank Act.
Speaking to the same Senate panel, Commodity Futures Trading Commission Chair Tim Massad said he wants Congress to raise the maximum fine for CFTC rule violators.
He called the existing $140,000 limit for most infractions much too low.
White’s and Massad’s comments came during a generally pedestrian session of the Senate Appropriations Committee unit that oversees the two agencies’ budgets.
The subcommittee’s top Democrat, Sen. Chris Coons of Delaware, said it is unlikely the SEC will get the full 11 percent increase it is seeking for the federal 2017 fiscal year beginning this October. The agency wants to use part of the increase to hire more than 100 examiners to increase the rate of investment advisors examined annually beyond 10 percent.
Coons said White made a strong case of why the agency’s oversight of industry professionals and the securities markets would be harmed if the SEC did not get the full increase.
But subcommittee chair John Boozman of Arkansas noted all federal agency heads ask for more money.