It has now been 5 years since Wall Street crashed the economy through its pump and dump mortgage derivative scheme. Few of the bad actors have been held accountable and none of the big ones. The public understands the reality – that Wall Street got away with it. Actually, Wall Street not only got away with the crime they got away with the coverup, the massive fraudulent scheme to foreclose on homeowners even without documentation.
Which is all to say no one thinks the SEC did well before, during, or after the financial crisis. One could even argue, quite reasonably, they helped cause the crisis by deregulating controls on debt to equity ratios. In any case, the SEC’s reputation has taken serious damage.
Now, according to The Wall Street Journal, as the financial crisis cases end the SEC is trying to rebuild its reputation.
The Securities and Exchange Commission is ending its push to punish financial-crisis misconduct in the same way it started—with a new chairman vowing that Wall Street’s top cop will be tougher in the future…
The agency has filed civil charges against 138 firms and individuals for alleged misconduct just before or during the crisis, according to an analysis by The Wall Street Journal. And it received $2.7 billion in fines, repayment of ill-gotten gains and other penalties. But some of the SEC’s highest-profile probes of top Wall Street executives have stalled and are being dropped.
For those playing at home, $2.7 billion is miniscule. For some perspective, TARP was $700 billion and the Federal Reserve’s loan guarantees broke the trillion dollar mark. The bailed out banks made massive profits, dwarfing that amount both before and since the crisis. And those fines totaling $2.7 billion are spread out over 138 firms. It’s a speeding ticket, actually not even a speeding ticket as you might consider slowing down to avoid a speeding ticket. This is getting a $100 speeding ticket while gaining $100 million from speeding – with no points on your license.
Some critics say the SEC should have done far more in the past five years. There have been “almost no legal, political or economic consequences” for the big banks, says Phil Angelides, former chairman of the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission, a panel created by Congress to examine the causes of the crisis. “What has Wall Street really learned? Very little.”
Somehow I think confidence is unlikely to return anytime soon.