Two Recent Settlements Highlight Heightened SEC Focus on Accounting Fraud and Potential Benefits of Cooperation

September 8, 2021

On September 2 and 3, 2021, the Securities and Exchange Commission announced settlements with Pareteum Corporation and Kraft Heinz Co. for accounting fraud following years of alleged accounting improprieties and financial restatements at both companies.

The underlying facts differed in significant ways, including with respect to the alleged involvement of senior executives, but both companies apparently received cooperation credit for their prompt and proactive remediation and cooperation with the SEC Division of Enforcement’s investigations.  The messaging in relation to the announcement of these cases and their timing, coming in the early days of new Enforcement Director Gurbir Grewal’s tenure, is instructive.  We expect the SEC to continue to focus on accounting fraud and to credit companies who provide cooperation in these challenging and resource-intensive investigations.  To see a meaningful increase in the frequency and nature of cooperation, the SEC would be well-served to provide even more explicit guidance on how cooperation results in improved settlement terms.  That said, these recent settlements are helpful in understanding the benefits of cooperation at this time.

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