That focus can be seen in the return of nearly $1.2 billion resulting from the SEC’s action against the Woodbridge Group of Companies LLC and its former owner and CEO Robert Shapiro, related to a massive Ponzi scheme impacting over 8,400 retail investors.

The SEC said its Enforcement Division “worked aggressively, including through the related bankruptcy proceedings, to locate and preserve significant assets … as well as filing enforcement actions and obtaining recoveries against others in this matter. As a result, investors are likely to recover 50% or more of their investments, the division said.

“The actions and initiatives described in the report reflect our deliberate, principled approaches to investigations, litigation and case resolutions,” said Steven Peikin, co-director of the SEC’s Enforcement Division.

Due in part to the self-reporting nature and accelerated resolution process of the share-class initiative, SEC enforcement actions were nearly 7% higher in FY 2019 despite the 35-day government shutdown, the division said.

The division also credited its drive to hold individuals accountable as its “most effective method of achieving deterrence.”

In fiscal year 2019, 69% of the SEC’s standalone actions, excluding actions brought as part of the share-class initiative, which applied only to entities, involved charges against one or more individuals.

“The individuals charged in our actions include those at the top of the corporate hierarchy—such as chief executive officers, chief financial officers, and chief operating officers—as well as gatekeepers such as accountants, auditors, and attorneys,” the division reported.

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