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The Top SEC Settlements of 2011

By Joel Stonington - 2012-01-03T23:18:44Z

Photograph by Rich Clement/Bloomberg

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The Biggest Payouts

(Corrects spelling of professor's name in first paragraph of story originally published Dec. 30.)

The Securities and Exchange Commission filed a record 735 enforcement actions in 2011 and collected $2.8 billion in settlements. This list of the top 20 SEC settlements for the fiscal year make up $969.2 million of that total. That won't impress some skeptics -- a federal judge in November slammed the SEC's practice of letting many companies settle without admitting guilt. As James Cox, a securities law professor at Duke University, told Bloomberg: "We're never going to put a face on this crisis. It's going to be the crisis of anonymity."

Each settlement included a clause stating that corporations are not admitting or denying wrongdoing. In some settlements of related criminal charges with the Justice Dept., corporations acknowledged wrongdoing as part of a deferred-prosecution agreement (charges dropped if all goes well for a few years). Other cases are sometimes settled with the Justice Dept. through a nonprosecution agreement (agreement not to prosecute crimes if fines are paid). Just two of the SEC's 20 largest settlements were cases solely against individuals: the fugitive and former CEO of Comverse Technology Jacob "Kobi" Alexander, and former Qwest Communications CEO Joseph Nacchio.

Note: Data are from the SEC. The ranking, by total monetary settlement for individuals and corporations, doesn't include money paid to other agencies, though other settlement or penalties are noted. "Disgorgement" refers to money paid back from ill-gotten gains.

(Corrects spelling of professor's name in first paragraph of story originally published Dec. 30.)