Tales from the Trail

from Summit Notebook:

So how plugged in is the SEC chair? (technologically speaking)

Securities and Exchange Commission Chairman Mary Schapiro says her agency has its work cut out to compete with the massive amounts of money that private firms, policed by the SEC, pour into the latest technology.

"Can we keep up with Wall Street? I think we have a fighting chance. We'll never have, under any circumstances, the kind of budgets that would allow us to spend a billion dollars a year on technology as some firms do, I mean that's just not going to happen, and I totally understand that," she said at the Reuters Future Face of Finance Summit. FINANCE-SUMMIT/SCHAPIRO

"If we can build a forensics lab for our enforcement people to be able to download data off of iPhones and iPads and other instruments, then we will be a lot better able to pursue insider trading potentially and other securities law violations," she said.

So how technologically plugged in is the SEC chair personally?

"I have an iPad," Schapiro said.

"No I don't do Twitter, I don't have a Facebook page. You know, in my position it would be complicated," she said with a laugh. "So maybe I'm kind of middling in terms of technology."

Her agency has a Twitter feed and a Facebook page in development.

To see how important technology is to the SEC, just look at the amount of data it must sift through in dealing with cases.

Washington Extra -Soothing business, suing business

President Barack Obama had some soothing words for business leaders at the White House today, telling them that, despite some impressions to the contrary, he was really on their side after all. Financial regulatory reform was necessary, but “it is important now that there is a period of healing and consolidation and implementation that is less disruptive.”

Presumably the head of American Express was not invited to the meeting, on the day that the Justice Department decided to sue the company, saying its rules preventing merchants from encouraging consumers to use cheaper, rival cards violate antitrust law.amex It is the latest salvo in the administration’s battle with credit card companies, who it accuses of scalping consumers. Amex typically charges higher fees to merchants than rival cards, with the justification that its clients are richer and spend more.

Advocates of the government’s action say credit cards cost significantly more in the United States than abroad, and tough measures are required to open up the market and protect consumers. But the American Bankers Association expressed some valid doubts that merchants would actually pass on any savings from the Justice Department’s action to those consumers.

Lessons in ignoring red flags from the SEC

The Securities and Exchange Commission, which has the power to strike fear into the hearts of financial types, is the one getting beaten up today by its own inspector general.

Turns out that tips came in over 16 years that should have raised red flags and could have uncovered Bernard Madoff’s $65 billion ponzi fraud before his December 2008 confession. ASIA-EUROPE/

Even Madoff was “astonished” that the SEC did not follow up to verify his testimony about clearing trades through a third party, saying he had actually thought it was “game over” at that point.