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« Bernanke Speech - Complete Text & Highlights | Main | SEC Employees Watching Porn At Work Were Making Over $200K Per Year »

Cohan & Taibbi: Shut Down The SEC And Start Over

SEC Chief Mary Schapiro demonstrates the size of the problem with her agency.

William Cohan and Matt Taibbi are proposing that we scrap the SEC and create a new enforcement agency with new rules, an idea that is long overdue given the overwhelming failure of the financial watchdog to police Wall Street and watch anything other than porn.

Just yesterday the Washington Post reported that despite warnings from Congress, the SEC is STILL shredding documents related to criminal investigations, leaving no paper trail for future discovery.


Read Cohan's proposal at Bloomberg...

Taibbi's reaction with additional detail...


Cohan Excerpt

The SEC has long had a too-cozy relationship with Wall Street. Witness Robert Khuzami, the SEC’s director of enforcement, who used to be the general counsel for the Americas at Deutsche Bank in New York, a firm that issued one fatally flawed mortgage-backed security and collateralized-debt obligation after another during the early part of the last decade. (A Senate subcommittee report on the financial crisis devotes 45 pages to Deutsche Bank’s squirrelly securities business and the role it played in fomenting the meltdown.)

Targeting Goldman

Is it any surprise that Khuzami set his sights on Goldman Sachs, rather than on his old company, in trying to create some accountability for the mortgage mess? Deutsche Bank was a bigger player in the mortgage-securitization and CDO markets than Goldman Sachs was, yet it was Goldman that the SEC ended up going after in April 2010 when the agency filed -- to great fanfare -- a politically useful civil suit related to a synthetic CDO that Goldman created and sold in April 2007. (Deutsche Bank did many similar deals.) Goldman Sachs settled the accusations in July 2010 for $550 million, more to make the bad publicity go away than because it did anything different from any other Wall Street firm.

There’s no evidence of impropriety on Khuzami’s part, but it should hardly give investors confidence that someone with such an obvious conflict of interest could bring a suit against a competitor of his old employer. (Schapiro, meanwhile, was previously head of the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, and was paid almost $9 million when she left to join the SEC.) It goes both ways: For years, top SEC officials have been turning in their regulatory credentials for compensation bonanzas at the very companies they were once charged with overseeing.

A new SEC would pay its top officials much higher salaries (in line with top private-sector attorneys) but not allow any of them to have previously worked on Wall Street or to go there for five years after they leave the agency. It would have genuine law-enforcement power, as opposed to the SEC’s civil-suit-only mandate, and be able to indict a firm and its top executives for wrongdoing. In other words, the agency would have the chops to regulate a powerful industry badly in need of it, free of conflicts of interest.


Taibbi Excerpt

Cohan’s proposal would do an awful lot to clear out two of the agency’s main problems, the revolving door and its impotence to properly (and speedily) combat criminal wrongdoing. As it is, the SEC can only refer criminal cases to the Department of Justice for prosecution, which a) slows down an already slow enforcement process to an absurd degree and b) is one of the reasons that people like ex-SEC enforcement lawyer Jacob Frenkel can claim with a straight face that the SEC is “not a law enforcement agency.”

Frenkel said this yesterday in an on-air discussion with me and Michael Smallberg of the Project on Government Oversight on the Kojo Nnamdi show in Washington, and to me this symbolizes the attitude among some people in the agency. If even people from the Enforcement Division deny they’re in the "enforcement" business, you know the agency has issues.

As it is, ex-SEC officials don’t have to wait even ten minutes to start whoring for the banks after they quit the SEC. Incidentally, Frenkel had an amusing answer when asked about that yesterday on the Nnamdi show by Washington Post reporter Marc Fisher:

Fisher: In the past five years, there have been more than 400 cases of SEC enforcement employees going right to work for outside companies that had business before the SEC. Jacob Frenkel, is there a problem with that?

Frenkel: Well, federal regulations permit it. 

If “federal regulations permit it” is the best justification for allowing instant-lobbying by former SEC officials, that’s a pretty clear signal that it’s time for the policy to change.


Related stories:

BUSTED: Robert Khuzami SEC Enforcement Chief


SEC Employees Watching Porn At Work Were Making Over $200K Per Year



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Reader Comments (9)

The foreign buyer argument –Cerritos California has 82 percent of households listed as homeowners. Median income of $82,000 does not support city median price of $540,000. If it did, you would not see homes falling by $231,000 in a few short years.

Sep 8, 2011 at 1:08 PM | Registered CommenterDailyBail
Sep 8, 2011 at 1:30 PM | Registered CommenterDailyBail
Sep 8, 2011 at 1:34 PM | Registered CommenterDailyBail
Like the SEC, the evidence will get shredded too.

Sep 8, 2011 at 1:36 PM | Unregistered Commenterjohn
Just published story from the WSJ


The Securities and Exchange Commission is bracing for a battery of reports from its internal watchdog that could be fodder for legislators looking to clip the agency's wings.

The reports, to be issued this month by the SEC's inspector general, involve several serious issues that could help determine the agency's standing on Capitol Hill. They include allegations that regulators destroyed documents relating to initial probes; alleged conflicts of interest concerning payments to Bernard Madoff victims; the "revolving door" between the SEC and Wall Street; and the financial package offered a former SEC official.
Sep 8, 2011 at 2:45 PM | Registered CommenterDailyBail
With today's elected government being a small army of mewling prancers, the bad guys are looting at will and the repercussions are not overt. Only the material two or three steps removed from self evident remain as evidence, and that is being shredded. We, the investors of the future of America, are being robbed blind and the population looking forward to having a job will have nowhere to go except Rothschild/Britannia for a prosperous society. England broke? The loot's being stored next door. The image of a busted central bank is merely a tool.
Taibbi says flush the SEC. Nothing else we can do until we get a little law around here. Until we do, we can not even flush the SEC. The U.S. is sunk until the revolution cometh.
Sep 9, 2011 at 1:55 AM | Unregistered CommenterHoward T. Lewis III
The SEC is a perfect example as to why foxes shouldn't be allowed to design hen houses
Sep 9, 2011 at 9:47 AM | Unregistered Commenterrobertsgt40
The purported mandate of the SEC is, and has always been, nothing more than to 'restore confidence in the trading of securities in the financial markets.' No enforcement needed. It took them 70 years to 'restore confidence,' and it appears that this was just enough time to get the people to relax their guard long enough for the sophisticated bottom feeders to alter the laws, on the books since 1934, to gut them, in order to perpetrate another shifting of wealth from the people to the banks. This is not a natural disaster. It's not as though mother earth needs to have an earthquake every so often, like clockwork, or an Old Faithful Geyser, every 90 minutes. The first head of the SEC was noted Robber Baron Joe Kennedy. Roosevelt said he wanted someone who knew how to game the system to try and protect it. That's what we got. Funny, I don't feel protected. There's a soundtrack for this. www.youtube.com/watch?v=yErrJU_YdVg
Sep 9, 2011 at 11:23 AM | Unregistered CommenterBliss Street

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