The SEC now has 45 days to bring a case against Mr Messier or apply for a further freeze.
Crucially, lawyers familiar with the regulator’s methods suggested that Wednesday’s move implied the SEC could be ready to bring the case by December.
The Sarbanes-Oxley Act – last year’s sweeping US corporate governance legislation – grants new powers to the SEC to help aggrieved investors recoup funds from companies and individuals.
Messier scored his own court victory over the money only last week.
A separate US court upheld his contract and dealt a blow to the debt-laden French media group which had asked the New York State Supreme Court to overrule a US arbitration panel decision that approved the award.
But the SEC’s intervention, in an emergency hearing brought forward from next week, could make the validity of the contract irrelevant.