The Securities and Exchange Commission, the federal agency responsible for protecting investors and maintaining fair and orderly functioning of our securities markets, has 11 regional offices, including in Miami, New York, Boston and Chicago.
None has quite the workload as the SEC’s San Francisco regional office, where a major area of focus in recent years has been investor fraud in pre-IPO companies, particularly the many startups that in an earlier era would have either have gone public or else out of business, but which today linger as privately held outfits because there’s so much money sloshing around.
Among the companies to find themselves in the SEC’s sights in recent years is HR software outfit Zenefits and its founder, Parker Conrad; they were fined $1 million last October as part of a settlement over charges that they’d misled investors. In March, the online personal finance company Credit Karma also settled SEC charges; it had been accused of unlawfully offering securities to its employees — then failing to provide them with timely financial statements and risk disclosures.
Of course, the best-known SEC case to date has centered on the blood-testing company Theranos, which was charged with massive fraud in March, along with the company’s founder, Elizabeth Holmes, and its former president, Sunny Balwani.
Leading the charge in each of these cases and many more: Jina Choi, a graduate of Oberlin and Yale Law School who worked as a lawyer for the Justice Department in Washington before heading to San Francisco and the SEC’s enforcement division in 2000.
Five years ago, Choi was promoted to director of that office, where she has since overseen enforcement and examinations in Northern California and the Pacific Northwest, despite critics who believe the SEC should keep its eye on public companies alone. (“If no one is policing private markets, that’s a problem,” Choi said at a public forum in May.)
In an age of initial coin offerings, cryptocurrencies and mushrooming numbers of blockchain-related projects, Choi and her colleagues have their hands particularly full, so you can imagine how excited we are that Choi is coming to Disrupt to discuss some of those challenges, as well as the agency’s victories. We’re also looking forward to learning more about how decisions are made in Choi’s office and back in Washington.
If you’re interested in learning more about the SEC’s ever-evolving approach to Silicon Valley startups — and why you shouldn’t expect its interest to dissipate any time soon — you really won’t want to miss this conversation.
You can buy tickets to the show, taking place in San Francisco September 5th through September 7th, right here.