The US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) is one part law enforcer, protecting investors from securities fraud and enforcing securities laws; one part doctor, promoting healthy capital markets and contributing to America's economic well-being; and one part rule maker, maintaining fair, orderly, and efficient markets. The agency regulates the sale of securities as well as the people and organizations involved in selling them. It also ensures the disclosure of financial information of public companies via its online EDGAR database and is involved in personal investor education. Established in 1934, the agency is overseen by five presidentially appointed commissioners.
Headquartered in Washington, DC, the SEC also has 11 regional offices throughout the US.
The SEC is generally considered self-funding because it collects fees. However, unlike the Federal Reserve, the FDIC, and other federal banking agencies, the SEC doesn't have immediate control over these monies. The collected fees are deposited into the US Treasury, which in turn appropriates funding back to the SEC. The SEC currently deposits far more into the Treasury than it gets back. Congress has alternately explored whether the SEC should have greater control over its own revenues or whether fees should be reduced.
In the aftermath of the Great Recession, the SEC in 2010 reorganized itself and formed new investigative units: asset management, market abuse, structured and new products, corrupt practices, and municipal securities and public pensions. The SEC also launched the Office of Market Intelligence, which investigates tips and complaints received by the agency. Other initiatives were put in place aimed at encouraging company and witness cooperation with investigations.
The SEC has filed 80 financial crisis actions against 117 individuals and entities, including 57 CEOs, CFOs, and other senior corporate officers since the financial crisis. These enforcement actions have resulted in orders of more than $2.2 billion in disgorgement, penalties, and other financial relief, most of which has been or will be distributed to harmed investors. Amost 30 of these actions were filed in 2012, up from the 23 filed in 2011.