SEC v. Apuzzo: The Second Circuit Clarifies the Standard for Aider and Abettor Liability in SEC Civil Enforcement Actions

August 13, 2012

On August 8, 2012, the Second Circuit issued an important decision in Securities and Exchange Commission v. Apuzzo, 2012 WL 3194303, clarifying the test the SEC must meet to establish aiding and abetting liability for a securities law violation. There previously had been uncertainty in the Second Circuit whether the SEC must prove that the aider and abettor proximately caused the harm on which the primary violation was based. In Apuzzo, the Second Circuit made clear that “proximate cause” was not an element of the aiding and abetting violation and that, to charge someone with aiding and abetting, the SEC need allege and prove only that the aider and abettor associated himself with the venture in some way, participated in the venture as in something he wished to bring about, and sought by his action to make the venture succeed. The Court of Appeals also stated that proof of a high degree of knowledge of a primary violation may lessen the SEC’s burden in proving substantial assistance.