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Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Where was the SEC in the Madoff Scandal?

Christopher Cox's mea culpa on the SEC's failure to heed "credible and specific allegations," going back to 1999, about Madoff's fraud:

Since Commissioners were first informed of the Madoff investigation last week, the Commission has met multiple times on an emergency basis to seek answers to the question of how Mr. Madoff's vast scheme remained undetected by regulators and law enforcement for so long. Our initial findings have been deeply troubling. The Commission has learned that credible and specific allegations regarding Mr. Madoff’s financial wrongdoing, going back to at least 1999, were repeatedly brought to the attention of SEC staff, but were never recommended to the Commission for action. I am gravely concerned by the apparent multiple failures over at least a decade to thoroughly investigate these allegations or at any point to seek formal authority to pursue them. Moreover, a consequence of the failure to seek a formal order of investigation from the Commission is that subpoena power was not used to obtain information, but rather the staff relied upon information voluntarily produced by Mr. Madoff and his firm.

In response, after consultation with the Commission, I have directed a full and immediate review of the past allegations regarding Mr. Madoff and his firm and the reasons they were not found credible, to be led by the SEC's Inspector General. The review will also cover the internal policies at the SEC governing when allegations such as those in this case should be raised to the Commission level, whether those policies were followed, and whether improvements to those policies are necessary. The investigation should also include all staff contact and relationships with the Madoff family and firm, and their impact, if any, on decisions by staff regarding the firm.

The Commission believes strongly that it is vital that SEC investigators, examiners, and enforcement staff be above reproach while conducting their duties, in order to ensure the integrity and effectiveness of the SEC. In addition to the foregoing investigation, I have therefore directed the mandatory recusal from the ongoing investigation of matters related to SEC v. Madoff of any SEC staff who have had more than insubstantial personal contacts with Mr. Madoff or his family, under guidance to be issued by the Office of the Ethics Counsel. These recusals will be in addition to those currently required by SEC rules and federal law.

Charlie Gasparino, in the Daily Beast, reports that Eric Swanson, an assistant director in the SEC inspections division and part of the team that examined the Madoff firm in 1999 and 2004, married Shana Madoff in 2007.  Ms. Madoff is the niece of Bernard and the Madoff firm's compliance counsel.

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