Securities & Commodities Fraud Charges & Penalties by State

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Securities fraud is an extremely complex subject. In a general sense, it refers to any form of fraud that has to do with securities such as stocks and bonds. During the process of becoming a public entity, corporations must disclose an extraordinary amount of information to federal regulators and to potential investors in order to avoid engaging in securities fraud.

However, complying with these initial requirements is not necessarily enough to avoid securities fraud charges in the long run. Throughout the lifetime of a publicly traded business, responsible parties within the business will come into contact with sensitive information that could influence potential investors. When they choose to use this information in an irresponsible way, they may enrich themselves to the injury of investors.

Securities & Commodities Fraud Laws

Securities fraud falls under federal jurisdiction because federal laws and statutes are used to define what commodities and securities may be traded on major public exchanges. Securities and commodities fraud is defined under 18 USC § 1348 of the United States Code.

Although the definition of securities fraud includes only 168 words, it is important to recognize that anyone associated with securities is placed in a position of official trust and has ongoing reporting responsibilities, tax liabilities, and other requirements associated with those activities.

In addition to the United States Code, important information on securities fraud is also provided for in the Securities Exchange Act of 1934. The Securities Exchange Act of 1934 dates back to the Great Depression and was intended to protect potential investors from fraudulent securities by demanding a thorough and comprehensive disclosure of material facts related to all securities traded on a major exchange.

Securities Fraud Crimes & Charges

Federal law provides for two major categories of securities fraud. Within these two major categories, dozens of intentional or negligent activities may lead to charges of securities fraud. The categories include:

  • Defrauding any person in connection with any commodity or option on a commodity for future delivery, or any security of an issuer with a class of securities defined by the Securities Exchange Act, Section 12.
  • Obtaining through falsehood or fraudulence, misrepresentation, or promises any thing of value, including money or property, in connection with sale or purchase of a commodity or option on a commodity for future delivery, or any security of an issuer as provided above.

In practice, these laws cover and any all false statements and failure to report material facts related to securities. Through such false statements and omissions, the providers of securities generally seek to secure a fast, fraudulent profit through the misuse of potential investor funds.

Securities Fraud Punishment

Sentencing guidelines for securities fraud provide for fines, incarceration, restitution, and probation. Each instance of securities fraud can carry with it a prison sentence of five years. Fines and restitution amounts will depend on the amount of material gain or the loss to victims created as a result of the fraud.

Securities Fraud Sentencing Guidelines

Sentencing guidelines for securities fraud are complex. Although each count of securities fraud may result in a prison sentence, it is not always straightforward to develop a fine or restitution amount that reflects the social damage done. Federal authorities have access to sophisticated sentencing formulae they use to determine the value of such penalties based upon the specific falsehoods involved in fraud, the true value of the securities and the amount of time.

Securities Fraud Statute of Limitations

The federal rules of criminal procedure (18 USC 3282) require that any prosecution, trial or punishment in response to a noncapital federal offense be instituted by an indictment or the institution of information in the case within five years of the offense. However, cases involving securities fraud can have far-reaching repercussions that may result in prosecution for some subset of crimes stemming from the original violation long after the initial statute of limitations may seem to have expired.

Securities Fraud Cases

Some major securities fraud cases include:

  • One of the most notable federal securities fraud cases of all time was related to the collapse of Enron, Inc. Corporate wrongdoing in the Enron case may have amounted to more than $1.2 billion in unlawful insider trading. (University of California)
  • Within the same period of time, global telecommunications company WorldCom became embroiled in a scandal including allegations of securities fraud and other wrongdoing which eventually led to a settlement in excess of $3.5 billion. (Stanford Law School)

Securities Fraud Quick Links & References

Securities Fraud Laws by State

Securities fraud involves deceptive practices in the stock or commodities markets that lead investors to make decisions based on false information, typically resulting in financial losses. The specifics and penalties for securities fraud vary by state:

AlabamaHawaiiMassachusettsNew MexicoSouth Dakota
AlaskaIdahoMichiganNew YorkTennessee
ArizonaIllinoisMinnesotaNorth CarolinaTexas
ArkansasIndianaMississippiNorth DakotaUtah
CaliforniaIowaMissouriOhioVermont
ColoradoKansasMontanaOklahomaVirginia
ConnecticutKentuckyNebraskaOregonWashington
DelawareLouisianaNevadaPennsylvaniaWest Virginia
FloridaMaineNew HampshireRhode IslandWisconsin
GeorgiaMarylandNew JerseySouth CarolinaWyoming

Alabama

Under Code of Alabama Section 8-6-17:

  • Securities fraud is a Class B felony, punishable by up to 20 years in prison and fines up to $30,000.

Alaska

Under Alaska Stat. Section 45.55.020:

  • Securities fraud is a Class B felony, punishable by up to 10 years in prison and fines up to $100,000.

Arizona

Under A.R.S. Section 44-1991:

  • Securities fraud is a Class 2 felony, punishable by up to 12.5 years in prison and significant fines.

Arkansas

Under Ark. Code Ann. Section 23-42-507:

  • Securities fraud is a Class B felony, punishable by up to 20 years in prison and fines up to $15,000.

California

Under California Corporations Code Section 25401:

  • Securities fraud can be a felony, punishable by up to 5 years in prison and fines up to $10,000 or double the amount of the fraud.

Colorado

Under Colo. Rev. Stat. Section 11-51-501:

  • Securities fraud is a Class 3 felony, punishable by up to 12 years in prison and fines up to $750,000.

Connecticut

Under Connecticut General Statutes Section 36b-4:

  • Securities fraud is a Class B felony, punishable by up to 20 years in prison and fines up to $15,000.

Delaware

Under Delaware Code Title 6, Section 73-201:

  • Securities fraud is a Class E felony, punishable by up to 5 years in prison and fines determined by the court.

Florida

Under Florida Statutes Section 517.301:

  • Securities fraud is a first-degree felony, punishable by up to 30 years in prison and fines up to $10,000.

Georgia

Under Georgia Code Section 10-5-12:

  • Securities fraud is a felony, punishable by up to 10 years in prison and fines up to $10,000 per violation.

Hawaii

Under Hawaii Revised Statutes Section 485A-501:

  • Securities fraud is a Class C felony, punishable by up to 5 years in prison and fines up to $10,000.

Idaho

Under Idaho Code Section 30-14-501:

  • Securities fraud is a felony, punishable by up to 14 years in prison and fines up to $5,000.

Illinois

Under Illinois Compiled Statutes 815 ILCS 5/12:

  • Securities fraud is a Class 1 felony, punishable by up to 15 years in prison and fines up to $25,000.

Indiana

Under Indiana Code Section 23-19-5-1:

  • Securities fraud is a Level 6 felony, punishable by up to 2.5 years in prison and fines up to $10,000.

Iowa

Under Iowa Code Section 502.501:

  • Securities fraud is a Class C felony, punishable by up to 10 years in prison and fines up to $10,000.

Kansas

Under Kansas Statutes Section 17-12a501:

  • Securities fraud is a severity level 7 felony, punishable by up to 34 months in prison and fines up to $100,000.

Kentucky

Under Kentucky Revised Statutes Section 292.320:

  • Securities fraud is a Class D felony, punishable by up to 5 years in prison and fines determined by the court.

Louisiana

Under Louisiana Revised Statutes Section 51:712:

  • Securities fraud is a felony, punishable by up to 5 years in prison and fines up to $20,000.

Maine

Under Maine Revised Statutes Title 32, Section 16512:

  • Securities fraud is a Class C crime, punishable by up to 5 years in prison and fines up to $5,000.

Maryland

Under Maryland Code Section 11-301:

  • Securities fraud is a felony, punishable by up to 5 years in prison and fines up to $100,000.

Massachusetts

Under Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 110A, Section 101:

  • Securities fraud is a felony, punishable by up to 5 years in prison and fines up to $10,000.

Michigan

Under Michigan Compiled Laws Section 451.2501:

  • Securities fraud is a felony, punishable by up to 10 years in prison and fines up to $1,000,000.

Minnesota

Under Minnesota Statutes Section 80A.68:

  • Securities fraud is a felony, punishable by up to 20 years in prison and fines up to $100,000.

Mississippi

Under Mississippi Code Section 75-71-501:

  • Securities fraud is a felony, punishable by up to 10 years in prison and fines up to $10,000.

Missouri

Under Missouri Revised Statutes Section 409.5-501:

  • Securities fraud is a Class C felony, punishable by up to 7 years in prison and fines up to $10,000.

Montana

Under Montana Code Annotated Section 30-10-301:

  • Securities fraud is a felony, punishable by up to 10 years in prison and fines up to $50,000.

Nebraska

Under Nebraska Revised Statutes Section 8-1102:

  • Securities fraud is a Class IV felony, punishable by up to 5 years in prison and fines up to $10,000.

Nevada

Under Nevada Revised Statutes Section 90.570:

  • Securities fraud is a Category D felony, punishable by up to 4 years in prison and fines up to $5,000.

New Hampshire

Under New Hampshire Revised Statutes Section 421-B:3:

  • Securities fraud is a Class B felony, punishable by up to 7 years in prison and fines up to $4,000.

New Jersey

Under New Jersey Statutes Section 49:3-52:

  • Securities fraud is a second-degree crime, punishable by up to 10 years in prison and fines up to $150,000.

New Mexico

Under New Mexico Statutes Section 58-13C-501:

  • Securities fraud is a third-degree felony, punishable by up to 3 years in prison and fines up to $5,000.

New York

Under New York Penal Law Section 352-c:

  • Securities fraud is a Class D felony, punishable by up to 7 years in prison and fines determined by the court.

North Carolina

Under North Carolina General Statutes Section 78A-8:

  • Securities fraud is a Class I felony, punishable by up to 24 months in prison and fines determined by the court.

North Dakota

Under North Dakota Century Code Section 10-04-12:

  • Securities fraud is a Class C felony, punishable by up to 5 years in prison and fines up to $10,000.

Ohio

Under Ohio Revised Code Section 1707.44:

  • Securities fraud is a fifth-degree felony, punishable by up to 12 months in prison and fines up to $2,500.

Oklahoma

Under Oklahoma Statutes Section 71-408:

  • Securities fraud is a felony, punishable by up to 3 years in prison and fines up to $10,000.

Oregon

Under Oregon Revised Statutes Section 59.135:

  • Securities fraud is a Class C felony, punishable by up to 5 years in prison and fines up to $125,000.

Pennsylvania

Under Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes Section 4117:

  • Securities fraud is a felony of the third degree, punishable by up to 7 years in prison and fines up to $15,000.

Rhode Island

Under Rhode Island General Laws Section 7-11-501:

  • Securities fraud is a felony, punishable by up to 10 years in prison and fines up to $50,000.

South Carolina

Under South Carolina Code Section 35-1-501:

  • Securities fraud is a felony, punishable by up to 10 years in prison and fines up to $5,000.

South Dakota

Under South Dakota Codified Laws Section 47-31B-501:

  • Securities fraud is a Class 4 felony, punishable by up to 10 years in prison and fines up to $20,000.

Tennessee

Under Tennessee Code Annotated Section 48-1-121:

  • Securities fraud is a Class D felony, punishable by up to 12 years in prison and fines up to $50,000.

Texas

Under Texas Penal Code Section 32.32:

  • Securities fraud is a state jail felony, punishable by up to 2 years in state jail and fines up to $10,000. Severe cases can be first-degree felonies.

Utah

Under Utah Code Section 61-1-1:

  • Securities fraud is a second-degree felony, punishable by up to 15 years in prison and fines up to $10,000.

Vermont

Under Vermont Statutes Title 9, Section 5412:

  • Securities fraud is a felony, punishable by up to 10 years in prison and fines up to $10,000.

Virginia

Under Virginia Code Section 13.1-502:

  • Securities fraud is a Class 6 felony, punishable by up to 5 years in prison and fines determined by the court.

Washington

Under Revised Code of Washington Section 21.20.010:

  • Securities fraud is a Class C felony, punishable by up to 5 years in prison and fines up to $25,000.

West Virginia

Under West Virginia Code Section 32-4-410:

  • Securities fraud is a felony, punishable by up to 10 years in prison and fines up to $10,000.

Wisconsin

Under Wisconsin Statutes Section 551.501:

  • Securities fraud is a Class H felony, punishable by up to 6 years in prison and fines up to $10,000.

Wyoming

Under Wyoming Statutes Section 17-4-501:

  • Securities fraud is a felony, punishable by up to 10 years in prison and fines up to $10,000.