Monday, February 4, 2013

The Changing Face of the SEC

As Mary Jo White assumes the helm at the Securities and Exchange Commission, speculation as to whether anything or everything will change continues to fuel the regulatory flames.    Ben Protess and Benjamin Weiser of DealBook said that the appointment, in conjunction with other new nominations, demonstrated the President’s “resolve to hold Wall Street accountable for wrongdoing, extolling his candidates’ records as prosecutors.”    As noted in the WSJ, the nomination of Mary Jo White marks the first time a former prosecutor has been chosen to lead the Securities and Exchange Commission.   But, one must ask, is White’s prosecutorial background a preposterously delayed reaction to egregious infractions committed by members of the finance industry prior to 2008 or is it the beginning of a new, progressive, forward-thinking SEC?  

Comments made by Pippa Malmgren and former SEC Commissioner David Kotz at the recent GAIM USA event are worth considering when evaluating the changing SEC.   As Glen Florio summarized on OpenGamma, “Malmgren …raised the philosophical question of whether government can protect people from a loss in the first place. … we have a ‘bad guy’ that is publicly pulled off the stage, the public desire to feel the swamp is clear of the sharks is not yet fed. We will therefore continue to see a more aggressive regulatory approach.”  And regarding hedge funds in particular, Kotz acknowledged “the overall cost of all the disclosures is considerable, and they have little value. In many cases, documents are collected and just filed away. The SEC doesn’t have the resources to do much with them, so in many ways it can be seen as a waste of money.”

New leadership is always promising but without the proper resources, can we really anticipate change?

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