18 Sep 23

What to Do if You Get an SEC Subpoena for Documents

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Last Updated on: 29th September 2023, 12:20 pm

What to Do if You Get an SEC Subpoena for Documents

Getting a subpoena from the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) can be scary. You may feel anxious, overwhelmed, or unsure of what to do next. But don’t panic! This article will walk you through the key steps to take if you receive an SEC subpoena.

What is the SEC?

The SEC is a federal agency that regulates and enforces laws related to the stock market and investments. Their job is to protect investors and make sure companies are following the rules. The SEC has the power to investigate possible wrongdoing by issuing subpoenas to get information.

Types of SEC Subpoenas

There are two main types of SEC subpoenas:

  • Subpoena duces tecum – requires you to turn over documents
  • Subpoena ad testificandum – requires you to testify under oath

The subpoena should explain what information the SEC needs and by when. Make sure you understand exactly what they are asking for. Don’t be afraid to ask your lawyer to clarify anything that seems confusing.

Get Legal Help ASAP

The very first thing you should do is hire a lawyer who specializes in SEC investigations and enforcement. Do not try to handle this yourself. A good SEC defense lawyer can help protect your rights and guide you through the process. They will know all the rules and strategies for responding effectively.

Time is critical when you get a subpoena. There are usually strict deadlines to provide documents or testimony. Missing a deadline can lead to big trouble, so move fast. Call a qualified attorney right away so they can get started reviewing your case.

Notify Your Company

If the subpoena is related to your work, you’ll need to inform your company’s legal team. Make sure management knows about the investigation too. Get their input on finding an attorney and compiling documents. You’ll want your company’s support in responding thoroughly.

Gather Requested Documents

Your lawyer will help interpret exactly what records the SEC wants. Don’t try to decide what’s relevant on your own – turn over everything that could possibly be related. The SEC may ask for emails, financial statements, meeting minutes, trade records, etc. Dig through your files, computer, company servers, and anywhere else you store business information. Double check to make sure you didn’t miss anything. It’s better to have too much than too little.

Review Documents with Your Lawyer

Before handing anything over, have your lawyer examine the documents first. They can identify legally privileged information that should not be disclosed. Your lawyer can also organize the records so they are easy for the SEC to review.

Never edit, shred, or delete any requested documents. Be completely transparent and compliant. Noncompliance will only raise red flags.

Understand Your Fifth Amendment Rights

The Fifth Amendment protects you from self-incrimination. Your lawyer will advise if you should assert this right when testifying. You do not have to provide answers that would implicate yourself in wrongdoing. But keep in mind that asserting the Fifth could still arouse suspicion.

Prepare for Your Testimony

If subpoenaed to testify, start preparing with your attorney right away. Understand all the facts of your case. Review relevant documents and emails. Refresh your memory on timelines, conversations, meetings, etc. You’ll need to be very familiar with all the details.

Practice answering questions about your actions. Don’t memorize responses word-for-word, but be ready to explain your side clearly and confidently. Your lawyer can provide question prep and testimony coaching.

Be Truthful in Your Testimony

Lying under oath is perjury, which is a serious crime. Even if the truth seems damaging, it’s better to be forthcoming. Admit mistakes, take responsibility, and stick to the facts. This shows the SEC you are cooperative and have nothing to hide.

If you don’t recall something, just say so. Don’t speculate or guess. Answer only what you definitely know. It’s fine to say you need to check your records if unsure about details or timelines.

Correct Any Misstatements

If you realize you misspoke or provided incorrect information during testimony, correct it as soon as possible. Contact your lawyer, who can submit a formal letter of explanation to the SEC. It’s much better to proactively self-correct than have inconsistencies discovered later.

Don’t Discuss the Investigation

Keep details of the subpoena and investigation confidential. The SEC does not like leaks that could compromise their work. So avoid discussing the case with colleagues, friends, or family. Even casual conversations could come back to haunt you.

Let your lawyer be the only spokesperson about your case. They know how to communicate appropriately with the SEC on your behalf. All inquiries should go through them.

Be Patient

SEC investigations take time. Stay calm and cooperative as the process plays out. Keep up with document requests and interviews as needed. With your lawyer’s guidance, you can get through this stressful situation.

If you receive a subpoena from the SEC, it can be intimidating. But taking the right steps with experienced legal counsel can help you navigate the process smoothly. Stay organized, be transparent, and keep your cool. With patience and preparation, you can handle an SEC investigation properly.