The SEC showed its true colors yet again at a panel at Stanford Law School at the end of March, although not as dramatically as last year. In last spring’s SEC panel at Stanford, the then head of examinations, Andrew Bowden, made such fawning remarks about private equity, including repeatedly saying he’d really like his son to work in the industry, that he resigned three weeks after we publicized the segment. Nevertheless, this conference was another demonstration of depth of regulatory capture at the agency.
As before, the real action came in when the audience members asked questions. They were all fielded by Andrew Ceresney, a former Debevoise & Plympton partner, now head of enforcement. We’re going to look at two questions in succession.
This one, the second in the Q&A section, has an individual investor reiterating objections that Elizabeth Warren, as well as SEC commissioners Kara Stein and Luis Aguilar, made about the SEC’s practice of being far too willing to waive an automatic sanction, that of the loss of “well known security issuer” status for serious violators. Kara Stein’s stinging 2015 dissent to a Deutsche Bank waiver gives a flavor for how the SEC is all too willing to go easy in the face of criminality:
With these WKSI advantages comes a modicum of responsibility. WKSIs must meet the very low hurdle of not being ineligible. This means that, among other things, they have not been convicted of certain felonies or misdemeanors within the past three years. In granting this waiver, the Commission continues to erode even this lowest of hurdles for large companies, while small and mid-sized businesses appear to face different treatment.
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