Does the SEC have teeth after all?
The SEC is all over the news today. It’s investigating Citigroup! It’s examining Charles Schwab, over the YieldPlus fiasco which we thought was settled but wasn’t! And, of course, in conjunction with Andrew Cuomo, it’s coming down on Steve Rattner like a ton of bricks:
The two lawsuits seek at least $26 million from Rattner and his immediate lifetime ban from the securities industry in New York…
“Steve Rattner was willing to do whatever it took to get his hands on pension fund money including paying kickbacks, orchestrating a movie deal, and funneling campaign contributions,” said Attorney General Cuomo. “Through these lawsuits, we will recover his ill gotten gains and hold Rattner accountable.”
Technically it’s Cuomo who’s bringing the suits, while the SEC is announcing a $6.2 million civil settlement with Rattner, timed beautifully to coincide with the first day of trading in GM shares. But what seems clear is that the SEC, egged on by the likes of Cuomo and emboldened by its success in extracting half a billion dollars from Goldman Sachs over the Abacus affair, has started to grow some teeth for the first time in living memory.
This means significantly heightened regulatory risk for just about everybody in the financial-services industry. And it could, conceivably, be the beginning of a national process of holding firms and individuals accountable for their excesses in the run-up to the financial crisis. The SEC is certainly taking its time, here: these suits and settlements are dribbling out very slowly. But you can be quite sure that they’ve only just begun.