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WASHINGTON: The US Securities and Exchange Commission's enforcement actions against public companies fell to a seven-year low in the 2021 fiscal year, even as monetary settlements rose slightly, according to research published on Wednesday.

The top US markets regulator filed 53 enforcement actions against public companies and subsidiaries in the year ended September 30, 32% below the prior five-year average and the lowest level since 2014, according to data compiled by New York University and Cornerstone Research. The decline coincided with the continued coronavirus pandemic and a transition to Democratic leadership.

Enforcement activity tends to fall the year a new chair takes the helm at the agency. SEC chair Gary Gensler, known for being tough on Wall Street, joined the agency in mid-April.

While there are signs the agency is taking an increasingly aggressive posture with Wall Street and corporate America, the SEC's enforcement director earlier this month warned the agency's fiscal 2021 numbers would show a decline in enforcement activity.

Monetary settlements imposed in public company or subsidiary actions totaled $1.8 billion, with $835 million from disgorgement and interest, Wednesday's report showed.

For the first time in a decade, there were no public company or subsidiary defendants who admitted guilt, the report showed, something SEC officials have signaled in recent weeks will become more of a priority.

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