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Mary Jo White discusses compliance

  • Speech — gray Image

Oct 22, 2013

SEC Chair Mary Jo White gave a speech today at the National Society of Compliance Professionals National Membership Meeting in Washington, D.C. She emphasized the SEC's support for compliance officers and discussed collaborative efforts to empower compliance professionals to be more effective at detecting and preventing compliance infractions.

Ms. White praised compliance officers, describing them throughout her speech as "invaluable," "a critical line of defense," and "extremely important." She noted how heavily the SEC relies on compliance professionals because the Commission's resources are finite and often stretched. The SEC works to support compliance officers' efforts to create a comprehensive compliance environment within their respective firms. Ms. White stated, "We work to proactively provide you with the information that helps you focus and target your resources in vulnerable areas that we believe may be overlooked. And we work to structure the most effective exams we can to supplement your efforts."

Ms. White discussed how the SEC empowers compliance officers:

  • SEC outreach initiative assessing the "tone at the top" — Senior examiners and other SEC officials engage with firms' executives and boards to see how the role of compliance officer is woven into the fabric of the firm, promoting the role of compliance and ensuring that firms recognize and acknowledge its importance. 
  • Transparency —
    • The SEC publishes risk alerts, highlighting practices, policies, and procedures that show or suggest a pattern of noncompliance throughout the industry. 
    • In February 2013, the examination program published a list of its current priorities, which included broad areas of focus critical to all SEC registrants.
  • Sophisticated examination program — The SEC utilizes Risk Analysis Examination (RAE), which efficiently and effectively identifies and addresses significant compliance issues. Some of its other new tools should allow the SEC to detect and inform compliance officers about activities, trends, and issues they may not be aware of.

Ms. White also discussed the relationship between the SEC's examination team and enforcement staff. She also emphasized that compliance officers who perform their responsibilities diligently, in good faith, and in compliance with the law are not at risk of enforcement action. Compliance officers do not become supervisors solely because they provide advice concerning compliance issues to business line personnel.

The full text of the speech is available on the SEC's Web site.

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