CONFIRMED: SEC Inspector General in “Final Stages” of Investigation on Crypto Conflicts Referred by Empower Oversight

By Empower Oversight. February 15, 2024.

The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has disclosed that its Office of Inspector General (OIG) is nearing the end of an investigation related to financial conflict of interest issues identified and referred to the OIG by Empower Oversight in May 2022. It’s the first acknowledgment of an open probe on the matter by the agency’s internal watchdog.

According to the SEC, “OIG has authorized us to inform you that OIG has an open investigation into the matter that they are in the final stages of completing.” Empower Oversight’s referral cited records it obtained through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) raising serious questions about the failures of SEC’s Ethics Office and a senior SEC official, William Hinman, to ensure that he avoided participating in matters where he had a financial interest—including a controversial speech declaring that certain digital assets were not securities subject to SEC enforcement.

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Empower Oversight Exposes SEC’s Bad Faith FOIA Tactics in Crypto Conflicts Lawsuit Filing

Empower Oversight. October 5, 2022.

WASHINGTON – Empower Oversight filed its opposition to the Securities and Exchange Commission’s (SEC)’s motion for summary judgment in the ongoing Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit over documents related to conflicts of interest and selective enforcement in cryptocurrency cases.

The filing demonstrates that the SEC intentionally misinterpreted the plain text of Empower Oversight’s request, admittedly ignored statutory deadlines without cause, and solicited search terms to locate documents, only to ignore those as well.

Jason Foster, Founder and President of Empower Oversight, issued the following statement:

“It’s abundantly clear that the SEC is doing everything within its power to hide information from the public about these issues. The key question is why? Despite its stubborn delays and resistance to our FOIA requests, the few documents that we managed to pry loose from the agency point to serious ethical concerns.

“Perhaps it is merely bureaucratic incompetence, but it is also possible that the SEC is acting like it has something to hide because it actually has something to hide. That’s why FOIA exists, to hold government accountable through transparency. The law requires more than the SEC seems willing to provide.”

Read the full press release here.

SEC Asked To Probe Ex-Official’s Crypto Statements

By Al Barbarino. May 10, 2022. (Law360)

A nonprofit watchdog asked the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission to investigate its former corporate finance head, Bill Hinman, now a Simpson Thacher & Bartlett LLP senior adviser, claiming statements he made about cryptocurrencies while at the agency may have presented a conflict of interest. 

Empower Oversight Whistleblowers & Research claims Hinman didn’t follow instructions that the SEC’s ethics office gave him to avoid conflicts tied to his financial interests in Simpson Thacher, including the firm’s connection to the Enterprise Ethereum Alliance, or EEA, according to a letter the group sent Monday to the SEC’s Office of the Inspector General.

“Directives without compliance monitoring and sanctions for noncompliance are not meaningful; they are window dressings,” said Jason Foster, president of Empower Oversight, in an announcement about the letter.

Read the full article here.

Empower Oversight Requests SEC-OIG Conduct Investigation into the Failure of the SEC’s Ethics Office to Prevent Cryptocurrency Conflicts of Interest by Senior Staff

By Empowr Oversight. May 10, 2022. (Empowr)

WASHINGTON — Empower Oversight sent a letter to the Office of the Inspector General of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC-OIG) requesting a comprehensive review of the SEC’s ethics officials to properly manage SEC official William Hinman’s potential conflict of interest regarding cryptocurrency issues. The letter describes in detail instructions that the SEC’s Ethics Office provided to Mr. Hinman and actions by Mr. Hinman that are inconsistent with the instructions.

Specifically, records that were disclosed to Empower Oversight in response to an August 12, 2021, FOIA request show that the SEC’s Ethics Office cautioned Mr. Hinman that he had a direct financial interest in his former law firm, Simpson Thacher, and thus, he needed to recuse himself from any matters that would affect the firm; and, lest he may have misunderstood its position, the Ethics Office explicitly told him not to have any contact with Simpson Thacher personnel. Further, the Ethics Office provided Mr. Hinman with a draft memorandum, which was to be issued under his name, that established a screening arrangement to ensure that he complied with his obligation to recuse himself from certain matters with which he had a financial interest, or a personal or business relationship.

Read the full article here.

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