It can’t be! It’s being alleged that Securities and Exchange Commission employees cared more about their careers than actually doing their jobs. One might think that a strong enforcement record might be career enhancing, but what do I know.
It’s easy to pick on the SEC in general. There are lots public companies doing questionable things. The agency has limited time and resources. So a lot of cases that aren’t obviously egregious might not be fully investigated or prosecuted, but it’s hard to blame the agency for that.
In the case of Bernie Madoff, the SEC gets no such pass. Especially since there was a whistleblower who repeatedly offered credible information to the SEC on the scammy nature of Madoff’s activities. And the credible information wasn’t just speculation or innuendo: It was mathematical proof that Madoff couldn’t possibly be using the investing strategy that he claimed he was using.
The American Bar Association reports on the failure of the SEC to find Madoff’s fraud:
How can this be? One big part of the problem was that many in a regulatory role at the SEC and elsewhere were more concerned about advancing financial industry interests—and polishing their own resumes for subsequent jobs within it—than serving in the unpopular role of public watchdog, reports the New York Times in a scathing op-ed column over the weekend.
And, in a congressional hearing today, a top SEC official seemingly agreed that the agency had fallen down on the job, according to the Wall Street Journal.
So who is looking out for investors if the SEC isn’t doing it?