In the cult classic Reservoir Dogs, a criminal mastermind bemoans the fact that one of his top henchmen has been assigned a no-nonsense parole officer while others, he claims, “slit old ladies’ throats and get Doris Day” as their PO.
Sort of comparable to the treatment being afforded alleged Ponzi schemer Bernie Madoff, who despite charges of bilking investors of some $50 billion is, inexplicably, allowed to remain in his exorbitant Manhattan high-rise.
In my opinion, he should be a guest of the state while awaiting trial, where he would soon be answering to the name of “Bernice.”
But I digress.
The Securities and Exchange Commission dropped more balls than the Bad News Bears in its periodic investigations of Madoff over a 10-year period, and unfortunately portrayed itself as at best, ineffective, and at worst, incompetent.
Now that the inauguration hoopla has subsided, the real work begins, and hopefully a regulatory overhaul won’t be reassigned to the back of the line under the Obama administration.
Among President Obama’s appointees is Mary Schapiro as the 29th chairman of the SEC. Schapiro, who spent six years as an SEC commissioner as well as having chaired the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, has said that she will attempt to reinvigorate an agency that has in recent years been impacted by a series of high-profile missteps – culminating in the Madoff implosion.
Under previous SEC Chairman Christopher Cox’s watch, the five largest U.S. investment banks — which the SEC supervised under a voluntary arrangement — have either collapsed or reorganized.
In testimony before the Senate Banking Committee, Ms. Shapiro told lawmakers that the SEC needs to adopt a “laser-like” focus on fraud and investor protection, while also raising the possibility of placing SEC examiners at credit rating agencies. She also promised to “take the handcuffs off” the regulator’s enforcement division.
As a potential harbinger of what we may see in terms of future regulation, nearly a third of financial executives polled by Deloitte Financial Advisory Services expected a significant uptick in government-led enforcement activities over the next five years.
As expected Schapiro easily won confirmation by the Senate. It probably won’t be long before we see if she’s a much-needed change agent or Chris Cox – the sequel.
Despite my having a life-long crush on Doris Day, I wouldn’t recommend the likes of her patrolling the halls of the SEC.
We’ve all seen that movie before.
And unlike most of her movies, it never ends well.
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