Thursday, August 18, 2011

The SEC in the news

The Madoff family gained unusual access to Washington's lawmakers and regulators through the industry's top trade group. The Madoff family has long-standing, high-level ties to the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association (SIFMA), the primary securities industry organization.
Bernard Madoff sat on the Board of Directors of the Securities Industry Association, which merged with the Bond Market Association in 2006 to form SIFMA. Madoff's brother Peter then served two terms as a member of SIFMA’s Board of Directors. Peter's resignation as the scandal broke in December 2008 came amid growing criticism of the Madoff firm’s links to Washington, and how those relationships may have contributed to the Madoff fraud. Over the years 2000–08, the two Madoff brothers gave $56,000 to SIFMA,[55] and tens of thousands of dollars more to sponsor SIFMA industry meetings.[56]
In Molchatsky v. U.S. (S.D.N.Y. Apr. 19, 2011), the federal district court held that two Madoff victims could not sue the U.S. government under the Federal Tort Claims Act for the SEC's "gross negligence" in failing to discover the fraud.  The opinion recounts at some length the allegations of the agency's ineptitude, largely taken from the SEC Office of Inspector General's Report, but nevertheless ultimately agrees with the government that the agency's conduct is protected under the Discretionary Function Exception (DFE) of the Federal Tort Claims Act.  Because the SEC's decision regarding whom to investigate and how to conduct an investigation are discretionary,  any negligence or even abuse of that discretion is shielded from suit by sovereign immunity.
From The New York Times:
Four months after the Federal Communications Commission approved a hotly contested merger of Comcast and NBC Universal, one of the commissioners {Meredith Attwell Baker} who voted for the deal said on Wednesday that she would soon join Comcast’s Washington lobbying office.
From Reuters:
At least 219 former officials at the Securities and Exchange Commission have left since 2006 to help clients with business before the agency, bringing fresh allegations of a "revolving door" that leaves the commission too cozy with the Wall Street firms it regulates.
Hot off the press from Matt Taibbi of RollingStone:
Is the SEC Covering Up Wall Street Crimes:  A whistleblower claims that over the past two decades, the agency has destroyed records of thousands of investigations, whitewashing the files of some of the nation's worst financial criminals.
Two really great articles peeking into the industry: