A relatively small number of people are involved in te day-to-day business of enforcing securities laws in the District, Maryland and Virginia.
Because the Washington metropolitan area encompasses in effect, parts of three states, it is very difficult for a promoter to sell a security here without engaging in interstate commerce. And if he does, he is a legitimate subject for scrutiny by the federal Securities and Exchange Commission.
The SEC's Washington regional office is in Arlington and 15 lawyers and four investigators toil there. When the field office in Philadelphia is added, there are a total of 22 lawyers and five investigators to look at all the federal security law violations and alleged violations in Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia, Delaware, pennsylvania and the District of Columbia. The state offices are not so well off. Both Virginia and Maryland officials concede that if their investigations turn up involvement in interstate commerce, they punt to the SEC. Joint federal-state investigations are not uncommon.
In Virginia, the securities dicvision of the State Corporation Commission is also responsible for overseeing the state laws on retail franchising."Four to five" investigators from a total staff of 19 work on securities violations, according to Lewis Brothers, the Virginia chief.
All of them work out of Richmond, and they are responsible for investigating violaions committed anywhere in a state so large that its southwest corner is closer to Memphis than it is to Washington.
In Maryland, securities commission Norman Polovoy has a staff of seven, including himself, all based in Baltimore. "Much of our time is spent registering the offerings of the honest guys," Polovoy said.Like others in the business , he said that disgruntled investors are the best leads in discovering security law violations.
The District of Columbia has a securities office within its Public Service Commission. It has one lawyer, James Whitescarver, and two investigators.
Unlike Maryland and Virginia, D.C. does not register securities. But it does license agnets and brokers and through the process "we keep a lot of people out of business," according to Whitescarver. "They see that they're going to be fingerprinted and be required to give a lot of personal data" and they disappear, he said.
In federal, state and District agencies the securities offices are authorized to make investigations and to file civil complaints. If they decide a more serious criminal prosecution is required, cases can be referred to te appropriate federal or state prosecutor.