SEC Four-Year Strategic Plan Is Generic, Non-Specific, Drivel

September 30, 2022

Bill Singer's Comment
on
Draft 2022 - 2026 Strategic Plan
for
Securities and Exchange Commission 
Release No. 34-95588
Filed with SEC on September 29, 2022
https://www.sec.gov/comments/cll-13/cll13-309302.htm

Generic, non-specific, drivel

Another four-year strategic period has ticked off at the SEC, which means that it's time for the SEC's Strategic Plan for 2022 - 2026 
https://www.sec.gov/files/sec_strategic_plan_fy22-fy26_draft.pdf 
These strategic plans are the stuff of rumination and aspiration and wholly lacking in pragmatism and reality. The SEC Strategic Plan for 2022 - 2026 is generic. It is non-specific. It is glossy drivel churned out by folks who should be doing something worthwhile on the taxpayer's dollar. One only needs to read the 2014 and 2018 iterations of the SEC's Strategic Plan to realize the silliness of the undertaking

The 56-page 2014 - 2018 Plan makes no mention whatsoever of the term "crypto," "cryptocurrency," or "bitcoin."

The 12-page 2018- 2022 Plan failed to strategically anticipate the multi-year Covid pandemic, a world working from home, supply-chain disruptions, or runaway inflation.

The 14-page 2022 - 2026 Plan fails to predict if the Democrats or Republicans will control Congress in 2023, if Biden will run for re-election, or if Trump will regain the White House in 2024--  or if SEC Chair Gary Gensler will still be on the job in 2026.

2014: Mission / Vision / Values / Strategic Goals

The SEC Strategic Plan for 2014 - 2018 offered these headings on Page 3:

Mission . . . Vision . . . Values 

Further, on Page 5 of the 2014 Plan, there is a heading "Strategic Goals and Strategic Objectives.

2018: Our Mission / Our Vision / Our Values / Our Goals

The SEC Strategic Plan for 2018 - 2022  https://www.sec.gov/files/SEC_Strategic_Plan_FY18-FY22_FINAL.pdf presented us with these headlines on Pages 3 - 4: 

Our Mission . . . Our Vision . . . Our Values . . . Our Goals.

Consider the content under the three "Our" headings in the 2018 Plan:

Our Mission 
To protect investors, maintain fair, orderly, and efficient markets, and facilitate capital formation. 

Our Vision
To promote capital markets that inspire public confidence and provide a diverse array of financial opportunities to retail and institutional investors, entrepreneurs, public companies, and other market participants. 

Our Values 
INTEGRITY We inspire public confidence and trust by adhering to the highest ethical standards. 
EXCELLENCE We are committed to excellence in pursuit of our mission on behalf of the American public. 
ACCOUNTABILITY We embrace our responsibilities and hold ourselves accountable to the American public. 
TEAMWORK We recognize that success depends on a skilled, diverse, coordinated team committed to the highest standards of trust, hard work, cooperation, and communication. 
FAIRNESS We treat investors, market participants, and others fairly and in accordance with the law. 
EFFECTIVENESS We strive for innovative, flexible, and pragmatic regulatory approaches that achieve our goals and recognize the ever-changing nature of our capital markets. 

2022: Our Mission / Our Vision / Our Values / Our Goals

The Strategic Plan for 2022 - 2024  presents us with these all-too familiar headlines on Pages 5 - 6

Our Mission . . . Our Vision . . . Our Values . . . Our Goals 

Rather than seriously discharge its obligations under the Government Performance and Results Modernization Act of 2010 (which requires these inane strategic plans), the SEC went through the motions, as demonstrated from the word-for-word-regurgitation of the 2018 Plan's prior content in the current 2022 Plan:

Our Mission 
To protect investors, maintain fair, orderly, and efficient markets, and facilitate capital formation. 

Our Vision
To promote capital markets that inspire public confidence and provide a diverse array of financial opportunities to retail and institutional investors, entrepreneurs, public companies, and other market participants. 

Our Values 
INTEGRITY We inspire public confidence and trust by adhering to the highest ethical standards. 
EXCELLENCE We are committed to excellence in pursuit of our mission on behalf of the American public. 
ACCOUNTABILITY We embrace our responsibilities and hold ourselves accountable to the American public. 
TEAMWORK We recognize that success depends on a skilled, diverse, coordinated team committed to the highest standards of trust, hard work, cooperation, and communication. 
FAIRNESS We treat investors, market participants, and others fairly and in accordance with the law. 
EFFECTIVENESS We strive for innovative, flexible, and pragmatic regulatory approaches that achieve our goals and recognize the ever-changing nature of our capital markets. 

Circling The SEC Wagons

Certainly, we should not merely focus on what the various SEC Strategic Plans say but also on how they look. After all, what's a fairly useless government report without stunning graphics, right? 

The 2018 - 2022 "Our Goals" on the page numbered 4 has a large circle titled "SEC Strategic Plan" with a horse chess piece and about two thirds of what looks like a bit of paper currency (or maybe a rug), and that larger circle is orbited by three smaller circles:
  • INVESTORS with a dollar sign surrounded by two hands
  • INNOVATION with a light bulb
  • PERFORMANCE with some kind of a meter
The 2022 - 2026 "Our Goals" on the page numbered 6 has a large circle titled "SEC Strategic Plan" with a horse chess piece and something that looks like a gear but, alas, no bit of paper currency or a rug. Clearly, a very important and significant graphic distinction! Further, the larger circle is no longer orbited by three smaller circles but -- wait for this dramatic improvement ! -- the larger circle is now orbited by three smaller un-encircled graphics:
  • Goal 1 with a gavel about to hit a sound block
  • Goal 2 with a light bulb
  • Goal 3 with a globe surrounded by two hands
An Unblown Whistle

In the 2014 - 2018 Strategic Plan, the word "whistleblower" appeared three times but only in this paragraph on Page 28:

Build upon the establishment and successes of the Office of the Whistleblower: The SEC will continue to encourage individuals and entities with timely, credible and specific information about potential securities law violations to provide information to the Commission to further investigations and promote more efficient use of the Commission's limited resources. Pursuant to the Dodd-Frank Act, the SEC is required to compensate eligible whistleblowers with an award of 10 to 30 percent of amounts collected as a result of original information provided by a whistleblower that leads to a successful enforcement action resulting in monetary sanctions exceeding $1,000,000.

The 2018 - 2022 Strategic Plan made no reference, whatsoever, to "whistleblower." Not only does the SEC's 2022 - 2026 Strategic Plan fails to include the word "whistleblower," but the current draft states nothing about overhauling, fixing, repairing, improving the SEC's beleaguered Office of the Whistleblower ("OWB"). Setting aside OWB's inability to timely process Forms WB-APP, we should consider this dubious invitation at https://www.sec.gov/whistleblower,:

Contact Us

100 F Street NE
Mail Stop 5631
Washington, DC 20549
Phone: (202) 551-4790
Fax: (703) 813-9322

Effective immediately and until further notice all correspondence for the Office of the Whistleblower should be mailed to:

SEC Office of the Whistleblower (c/o ENF-CPU)
14420 Albemarle Point Place
Suite 102
Chantilly, VA 20151-1750

We strongly encourage any correspondence to be submitted via fax at (703) 813-9322.

How does the SEC expect to encourage confidential tips from the public if the only way to contact the federal regulator for that purpose is by United States Postal Service mail? I'm supposed to arrange for the SEC to contact me by disclosing my address, email, and phone number in an envelope with a stamp on it? Making matters worse, the SEC's website does not provide an email address under the Office of the Whistleblower's "Contact Us" page; but, in truly antiquated fashion, whistleblowers are "strongly encourage[d]"  to correspond via fax. Fax??? As in that outdated mode of communication that virtually no one uses anymore? As in a non-confidential mode of communication that discloses the sender's phone number atop each page. Of course, you could take up OWB's invitation to telephone via (202) 551-4790  -- see how many times a human being answers that call and is able to direct your call to the proper party. 

There is not a word in the 2022 Strategic Plan about OWB's and the SEC's Claims Review Staff ("CRS") inability to timely process pending whistleblower Forms WB-APP seeking whistleblower awards. 

OIG -- OMG!!!

There is not a word in the 2022 Strategic Plan about redressing the recent scandals involving the SEC's Office of the Ombudsman and Office of Inspector General ("OIG"); see: "SEC Buries The Lede About Stunning Misconduct In Its Office Of The Ombudsman" (BrokeAndBroker.com Blog / September 19, 2022) https://www.brokeandbroker.com/6673/sec-owb-oig/  

"SEC Investigative Summary" (SEC Office of Inspector General / August 29, 2022)  https://www.sec.gov/files/findings-related-former-sec-ombudsman.pdf disclosed that the SEC's former Ombudsman lied when responding to OIG about Form TCR practices. Further, the former Ombudsman was found to have approved the submission to OIG of an "inaccurate and misleading" spreadsheet, which falsely claimed that 10 of 14 TCRs originated from the Office of the Ombudsman, when, in fact, those matters did not originate from that office. Worse, OIG found that various matters referred to the Office of Ombudsman, which should prompted the generation of a Form TCR did not -- and investors with tips were essentially told to "enter their own TCRs." In jaw-dropping-fashion, OIG found that in 2017, 2018, 2019, and 2020 Annual Reports to Congress, the Ombudsman falsely depicted hypotheticals or composite descriptions as actual "vignettes." It was only in response to a notice from OIG that the Ombudsman remediated the characterization of the vignettes in the 2021 Annual Report. 

Alas, none of the prior four-year SEC Strategic Plans anticipated the Ombudsman and OIG scandals; and, worse, the 2022 plan does not propose any strategy to redress the troubling issues raised in the cited matters. Also, read: