The SEC will reach the end of its case today against a financial adviser who refuses to defend herself in the agency’s in-house enforcement proceeding, noting constitutional reasons. Dawn Bennett, CEO of Bennett Group Financial Services LLC in Washington, D.C., and her attorneys have blown off the proceeding which began on Wednesday and will close after testimony from a final SEC witness today.
The SEC filed civil claims against Bennett last year claiming that she used her paid radio program to severely inflate the amount of assets her firm managed and exaggerate invest returns. Bennett denies the allegations.
Bennett and her attorneys assert that boycotting the proceedings is a piece of their strategy to fight the SEC’s use of its in-house courts in enforcement proceedings.
Bennett filed a civil suit against the SEC in Maryland federal court in October. Her suit is part of a growing faction of cases fighting the constitutionality of how the SEC appoints its administrative law judges.
Opponents also claim the proceedings deprive defendants of protections they enjoy in federal court, including the opportunity to take depositions. They further claim the SEC’s judges, who are paid by the agency itself, are biased in favor of the SEC.
Bennett claims she should not have to participate in the proceeding until the federal court rules in her case. If she did, she would take part in an unconstitutional proceeding and risk defending herself twice: once in the current proceeding and again after the court decides the constitutional issue in her case.
In December, Bennett failed to convince the federal court to stay the SEC’s proceeding. A federal appeals court and SEC administrative law judge also denied Bennett an emergency stay while the court weighs the constitutional questions.
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