Outcome of Recently Argued “Kokesh” SCOTUS Case Will Impact SEC’s Use of Potent Disgorgement Authority

Featured Expert Contributor — Corporate Governance/Securities Law

bainbridgeStephen M. Bainbridge, William D. Warren Distinguished Professor of Law, UCLA School of Law.

Disgorgement of ill-gotten gains long has been a basic tool in the Securities and Exchange Commission’s (SEC) penalty toolkit, despite a paucity of statutory authorization.1 The equitable nature of disgorgement has meant courts have had to resolve many questions without the benefit of statutory guidance. In Kokesh v. SEC,2 the US Supreme Court took up the seemingly technical—but surprisingly important—question of what statute of limitations applies to SEC disgorgement actions.

Appellant Charles Kokesh owned and controlled a pair of investment adviser firms that, in turn, managed four business development corporations (BDCs). Both the investment advisers and the BDCs were registered with SEC. SEC alleged that Kokesh misappropriated almost $35  million from the BDCs for the benefit of himself and the investment adviser firms. After a civil trial, a jury agreed that Kokesh had fraudulently misappropriated the funds. The trial judge ordered Kokesh to disgorge $34.9 million, which it found “reasonably approximates the ill-gotten gains causally connected to Defendant’s violations.” Continue reading