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How the Trump Enforcement Numbers Were Calculated

How the Trump Enforcement Numbers Were Calculated


A second methodology measured only cases that were simultaneously announced and settled, meaning the Obama totals did not include cases that were challenged by defendants and settled later under Mr. Trump.

For another approach, Urska Velikonja, a professor at Georgetown University Law Center who has compiled many years of S.E.C. penalty data, replicated, as close as possible, the S.E.C.’s approach to measuring enforcement. This approach is based on when cases were settled, not when they were filed, and also includes money paid to government agencies other than the S.E.C., including overseas.

The S.E.C. rejected The Times’s approach, saying it would have been more appropriate to have compared the first 20 months of the Trump administration with either the first 20 months of the Obama era or the second Obama term. That comparison would show more cases filed under the Trump period, the agency said.

The Times focused on penalties, not case totals, however. And it did not look at the first months of the Obama administration because the agency was in turmoil after the financial crisis, whereas the final months represented the agency Mr. Trump was inheriting.

To peruse the Times case data, click here.

The Times asked the Legal Data Lab at the University of Virginia School of Law and Duke Law School, which maintains a registry of corporate criminal prosecutions, to analyze all such cases filed in the first 20 months of the Trump administration and compare them with those filed in the first and last 20 months of the Obama White House. The analysis reflects sums paid to federal prosecutions, whether in fines, restitution or forfeiture. It does not reflect sums paid to civil regulators or state or foreign enforcers.

The Times also analyzed civil fraud actions against financial institutions, based on a list of such cases that the law firm Buckley Sandler compiled from public announcements. The Justice Department has two primary methods for pursuing such cases, which require a lower burden of proof than criminal cases: the False Claims Act and the Financial Institutions Reform, Recovery and Enforcement Act.

Analysis of enforcement activity by the Commodity Futures Trading Commission was based on data provided by the commission.

Public Citizen, a left-leaning oversight group, published a report in July that examined enforcement at other agencies. The report was based on data from the Corporate Research Project, a nonprofit group that records enforcement actions across the federal government.



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