Securities and Exchange Commission Moving Fast to Stop Financial Scams

By Tribune-Review, The | Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, July 16, 2009 | Go to article overview

Securities and Exchange Commission Moving Fast to Stop Financial Scams


Tribune-Review, The, Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review


WASHINGTON -- The Securities and Exchange Commission has begun moving far faster to stop financial scams and open investigations into potential wrongdoing than in the past, according to agency data, adopting an aggressive posture after it was sharply criticized about its oversight of Wall Street and failure to uncover Bernard Madoff's massive fraud.

Since Mary Schapiro became chairman in January, for instance, the SEC has launched nearly as many formal investigations as it did in any of the past five years.

At the same time, Schapiro and her enforcement director, Robert Khuzami, have undertaken a series of personnel changes that employees say are causing turmoil within the enforcement division and posing a distraction from its work investigating financial crime. Khuzami has two meetings scheduled this week with employees to discuss these moves.

The enforcement division -- the largest at the SEC -- is at center stage as the agency prepares to gain responsibilities under the Obama administration's proposed reworking of financial regulations. In testimony before Congress this week, Schapiro said the agency was keenly aware of its obligations. "There is an invigorating sense of urgency among the staff of the agency to demonstrate that we are up to the job," she said. "Khuzami is reducing bureaucracy by streamlining management within the enforcement division, putting many more talented investigators directly to work on cases."

Schapiro and Khuzami have pushed investigators to close old cases and focus more on those arising out of the financial crisis.

Since January, the SEC has filed several notable cases. It sued former executives of mortgage lender Countrywide Financial for allegedly failing to disclose the risks of its business practices to investors, and the agency has sued Reserve Management for allegedly deceiving investors in the money market fund company. …

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