More Civil Actions From Financial Crisis in SEC Pipeline: Schapiro

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission seal hangs on the facade of its building in Washington, DC.
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The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission seal hangs on the facade of its building in Washington, DC.

Securities and Exchange Commission Chairman Mary Schapiro told CNBC Wednesday the regulatory agency still has a "full pipeline" of civil actions resulting from 2008's financial crisis in which Lehman Brothers went bankrupt.

"You’ll continue to see cases coming out of the financial crisis from the SEC utilizing the full extent of our civil enforcement authority. It's not over yet," she said. She did not give details about the coming actions.

She would not say whether the agency did enough to prevent the crisis, but since the Lehman bankruptcy the SEC has "brought more than 70 matters against individuals and firms coming out of the financial crisis." The SEC has also collected "some very large fines."

That doesn't mean the agency has adequate funding at a time when the Dodd-Frank law, a year old today, requires the SEC to write 90 or so regulations involving compliance and oversight of the financial industry.

"We have really broad responsibilities under Dodd-Frank, so we try to stay focused" and look for the "least burdensome way to achieve the goal Congress set out," she said.

There's a lot the SEC could do with more funding, she adding. "Every day we talk about things we would love to do, that are important to do for our market, for investors, for our economy, that we can’t do."

One thing on her wish list: oversight of clearinghouses, which settle trading transactions for a fee.

"We have responsibility for clearing agencies that clear $1.8 trillion worth of transactions every day. We have nine examiners devoted to that function. We have in three of those clearing agencies a sporadic on-site presence. That’s just unacceptable," Schapiro said.

Dodd-Frank "speaks very strongly to the oversight of the clearing agencies and the partnership" involving the SEC, the Federal Reserve and the Commodities Futures Trading Commission "in this regard, yet we are not in a position to put people on the ground," examining the internal controls and how these exchanges clear trades.

While investors must do their homework before making risky trades in the market, most don't understand "the plumbing" of the clearinghouses and how that affects them, she said. "For us to say we’re not even going to look at these institutions would be a profound mistake."