Schapiro's SEC successor likely to follow her lead

Associated Press Modified: November 26, 2012 at 4:30 pm •  Published: November 26, 2012
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But critics argued that Schapiro, 57, failed to act aggressively to charge leading bankers who may have contributed to the crisis. And consumer advocates questioned her appointment because she had led FINRA.

Under Schapiro, the SEC reached its largest settlement ever with a financial institution. Goldman Sachs & Co. agreed in July 2010 to pay $550 million to settle civil fraud charges that it misled investors about mortgage securities before the housing market collapsed in 2007. Similar settlements followed with Citigroup Inc., JPMorgan Chase & Co. and others.

The Goldman case came to symbolize a lingering critique of Schapiro's tenure: No senior executives were singled out. The penalty amounted to roughly two weeks of Goldman's earnings. And Goldman was allowed to settle the charges without admitting or denying wrongdoing, as were other large banks that faced similar charges.

Among the SEC's leading critics was U.S. District Judge Jed Rakoff, who questioned how the agency could let an institution settle serious securities fraud without any admission or denial of guilt. Rakoff later threw out a $285 million deal with Citigroup because of that aspect of the deal.

Lawmakers and experts say Schapiro made the SEC more efficient and fought for increased funding needed to enforce new rules enacted after the crisis. She often clashed with Republican lawmakers who had opposed the 2010 financial overhaul law and wanted to cut the SEC's budget.

Schapiro also faced criticism over a decision she made in response to the Madoff scandal. Madoff had been arrested a month before Schapiro took over at the SEC in January 2009.

Schapiro allowed her general counsel at the time, David Becker, to help craft the SEC's policy for compensating victims. It was later discovered that Becker had inherited money his mother had made as a Madoff investor. Schapiro acknowledged in 2011 that she was wrong to have allowed Becker to play a key role in setting the policy.

The SEC's inspector general concluded in a report that Becker participated "personally and substantially" in an issue in which he had had a financial interest. Some lawmakers complained that the affair further eroded the public's trust in the SEC.

Cox, the Duke professor, said that after a strong first two years, the SEC under Schapiro became less effective.

"The wind was really taken out of (Schapiro's) sails" by the political fallout from the Becker episode, Cox said. "I don't think she really got her legs back under her after that."

For example, Cox said, Schapiro should have fought harder against legislation enacted in March that makes it easier for small start-ups to raise capital without having to comply immediately with SEC reporting rules.

Critics say the law went too far in removing SEC oversight and might open the door to corporate scandals or to the sorts of deceptions that led to the financial crisis.

Schapiro's push for stricter rules for money-market funds has been opposed by a majority of SEC commissioners in the face of resistance from the fund industry. But top regulators have pressed the SEC to adopt recommendations that include requiring funds to hold capital reserves against losses and placing limits on how fast investors can withdraw money.

Money-market funds hold $2.7 trillion in assets. Any run on money funds could pose a risk to millions of investors and companies.

And the banking industry has lobbied successfully to delay the implementation of the Volcker Rule, which regulators say would force banks to more closely monitor their trading risks and might, for example, have detected trading risks at JPMorgan Chase.

Chase, the biggest U.S. bank, absorbed an estimated $6 billion in losses from its trading operation in London that surfaced last spring.

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Associated Press writers Jim Kuhnhenn and Christopher S. Rugaber contributed to this report.