SEC’s Handling of Credit Rating Agencies Oversight and Failure to Detect Madoff and Stanford Ponzi Scams Questioned at Senate Appropriations Financial Services Subcommittee

At a recent hearing, US Senator Richard Durbin (D-Ill), who is chairman of the Senate Appropriations Financial Services subcommittee, told Securities and Exchange Commission Chairman Mary Schapiro that he was “puzzled” by the SEC’s request for funds to start aggressive oversight of credit ratings agencies in 2011. Earlier this year, the White House asked Congress to fund the SEC $1.234 billion for FY 2011-that’s $123 million more than the actual funding received by SEC during the previous year. Noting that over the past two years Congress had already given the SEC $143 million more than what the White House had recommended, Durbin wanted to know why, if the SEC considers overseeing credit rating agencies such a “huge priority,” the agency hadn’t already devoted some of that extra money to CRA oversight.

Schapiro responded by saying that not only is the SEC extremely committed to “aggressive” CRA oversight (and wants to examine all such agencies regularly) but that the agency had already begun this process. However, Securities Fraud Lawyer William Shepherd considers Shapiro’s statement “strange,” especially as it was “made by someone who, prior to taking over at the SEC, was in charge of the National Association of Securities Dealers, Inc (now called the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority). Under Ms. Shapiro, the NASD had the duty to regulate registered financial firms and was on the front line to govern the actions at the Madoff securities firm, as well as Bear Stearns, Lehman Brothers, and, for that matter, Goldman Sachs.” Mr. Shepherd is the founder of Shepherd Smith Edwards & Kantas LTD LLP, a stockbroker fraud law firm.

Durbin and Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) also questioned Schapiro about oversights that took place during the investigations into ponzi masterminds Allen Stanford and Bernard Madoff illegal activities, the status of its whistleblower program, the role of the SEC’s new chief compliance officer, and the fates of the staffers who were caught watching porn while on the job.

Schapiro said that 15 of the 20 SEC staffers that were implicated in an inspector general’s report for failing catch Madoff’s ponzi scam are no longer with the agency. The remaining five will be subject to “fair” and “appropriate” disciplinary responses. She also provided details on new efforts that the SEC is implementing to make sure that illegal activities such as those that Stanford and Madoff practiced will most certainly be detected in the future. Schapiro also talked about new, “across the board” leadership and a committee that lets staffers submit tips if it appears that certain colleagues have failed to take specific actions.

Related Web Resources:
Senators Say No to SEC Self-Funding, The Wall Street Journal, April 28, 2010
S.E.C. Employees’ Porn Problem, CBS, April 23, 2010
Senate Appropriations Financial Services subcommittee

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