Matthew Goldstein

– Matthew Goldstein is a Reuters columnist. The views expressed are his own –

Many critics of the Securities and Exchange Commission point to Christopher Cox’s appointment as chairman in August 2005 as the day the wheels came off Wall Street’s top cop.

But in some ways, the SEC began to veer off course a few months earlier, when the agency moved its Washington headquarters into a sparkling new office building that would make even a corporate law firm jealous.

The plush environs made it all too comfortable for lawyers and investigators and discouraged them from venturing out to discover what the Wall Street banks were doing with all that leverage or sniffing out what Bernie Madoff and R. Allen Stanford were really up to.

As she fights to keep Congress from diminishing her agency’s mandate, Mary Schapiro, the commission’s chairwoman, vows to put an end to the regulatory lethargy. Schapiro, according to The Wall Street Journal, recently told some of her senior lawyers, “We need to demonstrate that we’re going to make changes.”