A federal court approved the distribution of more than $843 million to harmed American International Group Inc. investors, the Securities and Exchange Commission announced today. The money will be distributed from a Fair Fund that the SEC established after the company’s settlement of an SEC enforcement action for accounting fraud.

The AIG Fair Fund’s court-appointed distribution agent estimates that checks will be mailed to more than 257,000 affected AIG investors within the next few months.

In the Fair Funds provisions of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, Congress granted the SEC increased authority to help harmed investors by allowing both ill-gotten gains and civil money penalties to be distributed to them directly. Previously, only ill-gotten gains could be distributed to investors. The SEC has returned more than $5 billion in Fair Funds to investors since the 2002 passage of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act.

“The return of these funds to harmed investors is another example of our determined effort to protect investors from those who engage in corporate malfeasance,” says James Clarkson, acting director of the SEC’s New York Regional Office.

The SEC charged AIG with accounting fraud on Feb. 9, 2006, alleging that the company materially falsified its financial statements from at least 2000 until 2005 through a variety of sham transactions and entities, and reported materially false and misleading information about its financial condition. The court entered a final judgment against AIG on Feb. 17, 2006, to which AIG consented without admitting or denying the allegations. Pursuant to the final judgment, AIG paid a total of $800 million ($700 million in disgorgement and $100 million in penalties). The U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York entered an order on June 14, 2007, authorizing the Commission to establish a Fair Fund to include all of the funds paid by AIG.

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