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商业 - 金融

奥巴马的SEC主席人选不合时宜

Stephen Gandel 2013年01月28日

美国总统奥巴马提名的SEC主席人选在检控华尔街罪犯方面拥有丰富经验。如果四年前上任,她的经验可以派上大用场。但是现在,华尔街需要的是一个能够制定规则,从制度上强化监管的人。奥巴马这一次似乎又挑错了人。

    
SEC主席提名人玛丽•乔•怀特和奥巴马

    

    由奥巴马总统提名担任下一任美国证券交易委员会(SEC)主席的玛丽•乔•怀特对于SEC而言肯定是一个不错的选择。但现在的问题是,她对于我们其余的人而言是否是正确的人选呢?

    显然这里仍然存在一个看法问题,即SEC在亟待解决的华尔街犯罪问题方面的无力表现。这原本是2009年由奥巴马任命的SEC主席玛丽•夏皮罗的职责所在。但她并没有很好地完成这项工作。的确,SEC对高盛(Goldman Sachs)的抵押债券(名为Abacus 2007-AC1)案开出了高达5.5亿美元的罚单,并对花旗集团(Citigroup)和摩根大通(JPMorgan Chase)的类似问题交易也做出罚金处理。此外,SEC还对Countrywide公司的安杰洛•莫兹罗处以2,250万美元的个人罚款,为华尔街史上最大个人罚单。

    但是,那些都是例外。雷曼兄弟(Lehman Brothers)及美国国际集团(AIG)等公司并没有高管遭到起诉。法官杰德•拉可夫抨击了SEC让银行逃脱严厉惩罚的政策。此外,马特•泰比在《滚石》(Rolling Stone)杂志上援引SEC一位律师的话撰文称,SEC正在掩盖公司犯罪行为。

    怀特应该能够重振SEC的强硬监管部门形象。在担任纽约联邦检察官期间,她曾检控黑帮老大约翰•戈蒂和恐怖分子。据报道,她还曾拒绝签署克林顿任总统期间对石油交易商马克•里奇的赦免令,并一度介入调查。KBW公司负责华盛顿研究的布莱恩•加德纳说,更重要的是,怀特过去一直对公司罪名检控持局限的观点。这意味着怀特不可能让大型企业去全面承担那些只可能是个人做出的不当行为所导致的责任。加德纳在一份写给客户的研究报告中称:“我们预计SEC的调查会变得更激进,但同时也会变得更彻底。”

    但是,那样的SEC是我们现在真正需要的SEC吗?对金融危机相关犯罪稽查的时间窗口正在迅速关闭。并且,执法只是SEC的职责之一。SEC也需要规范市场,确保它对所有人都是公平的。例如,高频交易者目前很可能可以放心地舒口气了。夏皮罗曾一度对相关领域进行调查,但怀特在这一领域并没有丰富经验。

    现在看来,我们目前需要的人选要能够制定多德-弗兰克法案仍然没有最终敲定的规则,它们不仅有望限制华尔街渎职行为,还能遏制愚蠢行为倾向。

    通常情况下,SEC主席要么来自监管机构,要么来自华尔街。过去十年,怀特一直在Debevoise &Plimpton律师行担任律师。她曾为肯•刘易斯辩护,后者被指控在担任美国银行(Bank of America)行长期间在收购美林(Merrill Lynch)这一交易上误导了投资者。此外,她所在的律师团队曾为高盛前董事拉雅•古普塔受到的内幕交易指控进行辩护。她曾任职于摩根大通(JPMorgan)及摩根士丹利(Morgan Stanley)董事会。【另注,怀特也曾为《财富》(Fortune)杂志母公司时代华纳(Time Warner)做过辩护,当时唐纳德•川普就时代华纳出版的书籍《王牌国度》(Trump Nation)提起诉讼。】

    上一位由华尔街辩护律师晋升为SEC主席的人是哈维•皮特,但皮特在SEC任期短暂,大多被视为一个灾难性的人物。(皮特称,怀特将在SEC主席这个职位上大有作为)。

    Mary Jo White, President Obama's nominee to be the next head of the Securities and Exchange Commission, is certainly a great choice for the SEC. The question is whether she is the right pick for the rest of us.

    There clearly remains a perception issue that the SEC is weak on Wall Street crime that needs to be fixed. Mary Schapiro, appointed by Obama in 2009, was supposed to correct that. But she didn't quite get the job done. Yes, there was the $550 million fine against Goldman Sachs (GS) for constructing the ill-fated mortgage bond Abacus, and similar ones with Citigroup (C) and JPMorgan Chase (JPM). And the SEC got Countrywide's Angelo Mozilo to personally pay a $22.5 million fine, the largest by an individual in history.

    But those were the exceptions. No executives were ever charged at Lehman Brothers or AIG (AIG). Judge Jed Radkoff bashed the SEC for its policy of allowing banks to get off with slaps on the wrist. And there was the Rolling Stone tale by Matt Taibbi of the SEC lawyer who said the SEC was covering up corporate crime.

    White should be able to reinstate the SEC's image as a tough regulator. As United States attorney in New York, she pursued mob boss John Gotti and terrorists. She reportedly refused to sign off on President Clinton's pardon of oil trader Mark Rich, and briefly investigated it. What's more, KBW's Brian Gardner, who heads up the firm's Washington research, says White in the past has taken a limited view of what crimes corporations could be charged with. Meaning White is less likely to allow large corporations to swallow the blame for misconduct that could only have been committed by individuals. "We expect the SEC's investigations to become more aggressive but, at the same time, more thorough," Gradner wrote in a note to clients.

    But is that what we really need at the SEC right now? The window for pursing crimes from the financial crisis is rapidly closing. And enforcement is only one part of what the SEC does. It also needs to regulate the market to make sure it's fair for everyone. High-frequency traders, for example, can probably breathe a sigh of relief, for now. Shapiro had been examining their turf, but this is not an area in which White has a lot of experience.

    What we need now, it seems, is someone who can lay down the rules, still not finalized from Dodd-Frank, that will not just hopefully limit Wall Street malfeasance but its propensity for stupidity as well.

    Typically, SEC chairmen have either come from the ranks of regulators or from Wall Street itself. White has spent the past decade at Debevoise & Plimpton. She defended Ken Lewis against allegations that he misled investors in the acquisition of Merrill Lynch when he was head of Bank of America. And she was part of the legal team that defended former Goldman board member Rajat Gupta against insider trading charges. She has worked for JPMorgan and the board of Morgan Stanley. (On another note, White also defended Fortune's parent company, Time Warner, in a suit filed by Donald Trump over a book it published, TrumpNation.)

    The last person to go from Wall Street defense attorney to the head of the SEC was Harvey Pitt, and Pitt's tenure at the SEC was brief and mostly seen as a train wreck. (Pitt says White will make a great SEC head.)

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