As the Securities and Exchange Commission tried to file a lawsuit against a company for securities fraud, it came up against a difficult argument from the company: when does the statute of limitations begin? The statute of limitations is a legal concept that dictates how long a party has to bring a case, but oftentimes the question is when does the statute of limitations begin? The SEC said that the statute of limitations for securities fraud beings when the activity is discovered, but the company has said that it is when the activity took place.

Unfortunately for the government and those who have been defrauded by securities companies, the United States Supreme Court appears to agree with the company. Nothing final has been decided, but many of the justices have questioned the government attorney’s arguments, saying that allowing the statute of fraud to begin once the activity is first discovered would be a new approach to securities fraud.

The government, however, is arguing that if it begins at the time the action took place then anyone who manages to keep his or her fraudulent activities concealed for five years cannot be subjected to regulatory lawsuits. The attorney has said that it is highly unlikely that is what Congress meant when it passed legislation that granted regulatory bodies the ability to file lawsuits against fraudulent companies.

The Supreme Court has yet to make up its mind as to what to do about the situation, but it is likely that whatever it decides will have a large impact on securities fraud and the possibility of individual investors getting their money back.

Source: The Washington Times, “Supreme Court seems skeptical about extension to sue for securities fraud,” Jesse J. Holland, Jan. 8, 2013

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