Silicon Valley companies that operate in the gray might be heaving a small sigh of relief today. Yesterday afternoon, the Securities and Exchange Commission announced that Jina Choi, the head of its San Francisco office, is retiring after 16 years with the agency.
The release about Choi’s move is glowing, though it doesn’t offer an explanation of why Choi is leaving or what her next move may be. We’ve reached out to learn more. In the meantime, it’s worth noting that many federal employees are eventually lured into higher-paying jobs in the private sector.
Choi was appointed to lead the SEC’s Bay Area office in 2013, and with a staff of 130 attorneys, accountants, investigators and compliance examiners, it has brought enforcements against numerous high-fliers, including, most recently, Tesla’s Elon Musk, who was made to step down as chairman of the company for a period of at least three years after he was accused of fraud for tweeting that he had secured funding for the car company when he had not.
As part of that same settlement, Musk had to pay a $20 million fine; Tesla promised to put in place a system for monitoring Musk’s statements to the public about the company; and Tesla agreed to pay a separate $20 million fine and appoint two independent directors to the board. It has since appointed longtime board member Robyn Denholm as new chair to replace Musk.
In September, we had talked with Choi onstage at our San Francisco Disrupt show about another of the agency’s most famous cases to date: Theranos, the blood-testing company that was recently dissolved but was charged with massive civil fraud by the SEC back in March.
It was a case that the SEC spent nearly two years building, and when we talked with Choi about what took so long, she explained the resource-intensive nature of the SEC’s work in some detail. She also made note of the surprising number of regions that the SEC’s Bay Area office covers, including Portland, Seattle, Idaho, Montana and Alaska.
The agency has not yet announced who will replace Choi.
Meanwhile, the SEC yesterday also settled charges against boxer Floyd Mayweather Jr. and music producer DJ Khaled for failing to disclose payments they received for promoting investments in ICOs, though the case was pursued by the agency’s New York office.
Mayweather agreed to pay $300,000 in disgorgement, a $300,000 penalty and $14,775 in what’s called prejudgment interest. Khaled agreed to pay $50,000 in disgorgement, a $100,000 penalty and $2,725 in prejudgment interest.