WASHINGTON — Securities and Exchange Commission Chairman Mary Jo White is fighting back against accusations that the agency's current policies for deciding whether to settle with financial institutions or bring them to court are inappropriate.

"I believe that our current settlement policy achieves a very public measure of accountability while at the same time allowing us to more quickly return funds to harmed investors and get wrongdoers out of the industry while conserving resources to pursue the next fraud," White wrote in a letter dated June 10.

Her missive came in response to questions raised by Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., who wrote to White and Attorney General Eric Holder asking for information about any analyses the SEC or the Justice Department have completed looking at the consequences of pursuing a trial or reaching a settlement with large banks and other institutions.

White said the SEC hasn't conducted any research into the trade-offs of the two strategies, but noted that the agency continues to investigate the issue.

"I am actively reviewing the scope of the Commission's neither-admit-nor-deny settlement policy with the leadership of the Division of Enforcement to determine what, if any, changes may be warranted and whether the SEC is making full appropriate use of its leverage in the settlement process," she wrote.

She also detailed the impact of the agency's actions, including settlement agreements.

"I also believe that our settlements achieve a significant measure of accountability and deterrence because of the detailed factual allegations and findings contained in our complaints, orders instituting proceedings and settlement documents — factual allegations or findings that present a virtual road map of the wrongdoing that the Commission contends violated the federal securities laws," she said. "In addition, the very public nature of our settlements enhances their deterrent impact — our settlements frequently are accompanied by press releases, dissected by the media, analyzed in detail by the financial industry and the defense bar in various public forums and are the subject of speeches and other public statements by the Chair, the Commissioners, and other SEC officials."

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