“There are two levels of SEC investigation that reflect the status of the investigation and the SEC’s authority. Initially, an investigation is classified as “informal” and is termed a “matter under inquiry (MUI).” The next and more serious level of inquiry is the “formal investigation.” At the completion of the investigation, the SEC either recommends enforcement action or closes the investigation.”
Why would I need a press agency to be aware of an SEC investigation? The SEC made a great job getting filings available to the public through the EDGAR database. Speaking of which, try this smart front end with Java graphs, XML and Excel extensions, a wise marketing move by PWC (edit: unfortunately, they made it private in 2007).
Apparently the Division of Enforcement has an internal system to handle MUIs but it doesn’t seem connected to their web site. However, since their web site search is, as often, close to unusable, I didn’t manage to nail down how these issues are handled. Maybe it’s their official policy not to comment on informal inquiries, leaving it up to companies to communicate or not.