The fines levied by the Securities and Exchange commission have fallen to their lowest level since 2002. Bloomberg reports that “fewer billion-dollar accounting-fraud cases” and “new policies for fining companies” are to blame.

For the year ended September 30, the SEC issued $1.6 billion in fines, compared to $3 billion in each of the two previous years.

One expert says this is because the cases being investigated by the SEC are smaller and that the SEC has adopted a new stance on penalizing companies, since the penalties ultimately hurt the investors.

Two of the larger fines in 2006 were issued against American International Group (AIG) and Fannie Mae, at $800 million and $400 million, respectively. 2007’s fines include $50 million against Freddie Mac, $45 million against ConAgra Foods, $81 million against HealthSouth founder Richard Scrushy, and $208 million against Deutsche Bank.

It is also reported that the SEC brought 656 cases in 2007, which was a 14% increase over 2006.

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