The Congress set up the United Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) under Section 4 of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 as an independent regulatory agency in the wake of the Great Crash of 1929 and the Great Depression of the 1930s.
The avowed objective of the SEC includes the prevention of fraud and abuses in the offer and sale of securities and in corporate reporting and disclosure. The SEC gives license to and regulates the stock exchanges. SEC also administers the federal laws that regulate the securities industry.
The SEC is empowered to bring civil enforcement actions against individuals and companies charged with reporting or accounting fraud, insider trading or other violations of the securities law in a US District Court or institute an administrative proceeding to be heard by an administrative law judge. Since the SEC itself does not have criminal jurisdiction it may refer security crimes to the concerned state or federal prosecutors.
SEC mandates the public companies to submit different periodic reports including quarterly and annual reports on the EDGAR filer. Since 1996 investors can access most of these information filed with the agency online on the EDGAR database. These SEC mandated disclosures regarding the issuer and the securities in public security offerings prior to inter state sale of securities enable the prospective investor in taking informed decision on their investments in public companies.