SEC compliance examiner arrested in NY on false statement charges regarding stocks he owned

NEW YORK, N.Y. – A Securities and Exchange Commission employee responsible for ensuring others comply with the nation’s securities laws was arrested Tuesday on charges that he made false statements to the agency about stocks he owned.

Steven Gilchrist, 48, of Bethpage, N.Y., was released on his own recognizance after an appearance in U.S. District Court in Manhattan. His attorney, Laura Miranda, declined to comment.

According to court papers, Gilchrist owned stock in several financial companies, including Bank of America Corp., Citigroup and Morgan Stanley. Authorities said he claimed he had sold them when he actually had merely transferred them to an account he controlled that he held jointly with his mother.

“We will not tolerate abuses of trust and violations of law by individuals tasked with safeguarding our markets,” U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said in a statement. “As an SEC examiner, Steven Gilchrist had a duty to avoid conflicts of interest that might compromise or even appear to compromise his integrity. Instead, as alleged, he violated the SEC’s internal rules about stock ownership and repeatedly lied to the SEC about his holdings.”

SEC Inspector General Carl Hoecker added: “Making false statements to government agencies undermines the foundation of public integrity.”

Gilchrist worked as a compliance examiner, a job whose responsibilities include overseeing broker-dealers, investment advisers, investment companies, clearing agencies and others to make sure they comply with securities laws, according to a criminal complaint unsealed in federal court.

Authorities said Gilchrist made false statements to the SEC on three occasions this year about his stock holdings. They said he falsely certified in January through an electronic SEC compliance system that he was in compliance with SEC regulations at the end of 2012. In February, he submitted a financial disclosure form falsely stating that he no longer held prohibited stocks and the same month he falsely certified that he had sold other prohibited stocks, they said.

SEC ethical rules were tightened in August 2010 to prohibit employees from buying or holding stocks in entities directly regulated by the agency. It also required employees to submit any proposed personal transactions in securities to the SEC prior to executing them.

The criminal complaint accused him of failing to divest his holdings as required and of buying additional prohibited stock without clearing it first with the SEC.

If convicted, Gilchrist could face up to 15 years in prison.