Pursuant to the Administrative Procedure Act, 5 U.S.C. § 553(e), and Rule 192(a) of the U. S. Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC” or “Commission”), 17 C.F.R. § 201.192(a), the Petitioner New Civil Liberties Alliance (“NCLA”) hereby petitions the Commission to amend its rule restricting speech that is set forth in 17 C.F.R. § 202.5(e) (“The Gag Rule”). The Rule is unconstitutional, without legal authority, and further is ill-conceived policy.
The SEC Rule adopts “the policy that in any civil lawsuit brought by it or in any administrative proceeding of an accusatory nature pending before it, it is important to avoid creating, or permitting to be created, an impression that a decree is being entered or a sanction imposed, when the conduct did not, in fact, occur.” Accordingly, SEC will “not … permit a defendant or respondent to consent to a judgment or order that imposes a sanction while denying the allegations in the complaint or order for proceedings”—although at the same time the SEC provides that the defendant or respondent may state “that he neither admits nor denies the allegations.” 17 C.F.R. § 202.5(e).
Pursuant to this policy and Rule, the Commission has required persons or entities charged in judicial or administrative proceedings of an accusatory nature who enter into consents to agree in perpetuity not to take any action or to make or cause to be made any public statement denying, directly or indirectly, any allegation in the complaint or creating the impression that the complaint is without factual basis. The SEC in practice thus goes further than the rule and binds defendants to silence permanently under threat of a reopened prosecution, a penalty and enforcement power neither mentioned in nor authorized by the rule—or by any law.