Two days ago, we said it was time to fire the SEC’s chief of enforcement Robert Khuzami, who has not provided the tough policing warranted by the biggest financial crisis in the agency’s history. Our call was based on compelling evidence of failure. Specifically, a year and a half after Dodd Frank created a $450 million whistleblower fund, which Khuzami confirmed had produced hundreds of high quality leads, the agency had taken only one referral far enough to merit a payout, that of a measley $50,000. We stressed that this was an astonishing lapse:When you look Republican investigations of alleged Obama corruption, what is clear is that they are trying to gin up a false bullsh%$ like Benghazi and "Fast and Furious".
… whistleblowers are insiders and therefore should in many cases have access to the sort of internal documents that would serve to substantiate conduct and save the SEC a ton of time. In other words, this should be a prime, potentially its best, source of leads, since the SEC would be further along in case development if any of these tips had meat (ie, both damning info and on target with a clear violation).We didn’t anticipate that the story of Khuzami’s negligence would blow so big so quickly. Today, the Financial Times reported that three separate whistleblowers charged that Deutsche Bank had mismarked up to $12 billion in exposures to make it look healthier in 2008 and 2009 than it was, yet the agency had not acted on these allegations. And this level of window dressing most assuredly would make a difference.
Khuzami’s position is hopelessly conflicted. He was general counsel for the Americas for Deutsche from 2004 to 2009, so this behavior took place on his watch. Although he has recused himself from this probe, that’s inadequate. Recusal does not work when the people working on the matter in the end have the party with the conflict as their boss. They can’t pursue any real dirt that could implicate him without hurting themselves. If it came to naught, they’d still fear the risk of reprisal if he survived. And if he were forced to leave, they’d be faced with a new boss who might not be at all to their liking.
The only way to have an effective investigation is either to have Khuzami resign or to have the matter handed off to a completely independent firm (and even that’s a stretch, both from the agency side, and from the dearth of firms with decent securities law expertise that would be willing to face off against a major bank. Just as with the bankruptcy bar, you either work for the banks [the creditors] or against them [for the debtors]). It’s also a wee bit too cozy that Deutsche’s current general counsel is also a former SEC head of enforcement. And KPMG, the accountant that blessed all this highly dubious financial footwork, and Fried Frank, which led an investigation initiated by Deutsche and apparently found nothing much wrong, also don’t come out looking very good.
This one is real, and it's an accusation that would serve to benefit the Republicans politically, and unlike the investigatory theater that Darryl Issa favors.
Additionally, such an investigation might lead the white house to get tougher with the banksters, because it is clear that one of the administration's conceits, notwithstanding the rapidly spinning revolving door (Elizabeth Fowler anyone?), is that they are a model of probity, and this, along with the political consequences, might produce some meaningful action.