上周四，在金融危机近五年后，美国证券交易委员会（Securities and Exchange Commission）终于证明，它有能力让一位曾任中层交易员的30多岁研究生为金融危机的罪责承担责任。司法正义终于得到伸张！
“它们提起诉讼的胜诉纪录不太漂亮，”前SEC执法官员、德汇律师事务所（Dorsey and Whitney）合伙人托马斯•高曼说。
而SEC的实际纪录更像是1比7。这是因为前贝尔斯登（Bear Stearns）对冲基金经理拉尔夫•乔菲和马修•坦宁在美国司法部的刑事诉讼中被判无罪后，SEC与这两个人达成了和解。法官批准了SEC的和解，但此前也表示，SEC的和解金额是“一笔小钱”。在另外一宗案件中，SEC不得不一百八十度大转弯，要求一名法官放弃对爱德华•斯特福林提起诉讼；斯特福林为摩根大通（JPMorgan Chase）建议的一款按揭债券损失惨重。为此，《纽约时报》（New York Times）撰文写道，“如果斯特福林能够算得上是某种标志性的人物，那一定是监管机构手伸得太长的牺牲品。”
So that's one.
On Thursday, nearly five years after the financial crisis, the Securities and Exchange Commission proved that it was able to hold one mid-level, thirtysomething former trader-turned grad student accountable for crimes of the financial crisis. Justice served!
But the fact that a jury found former Goldman Sachs (GS) trader Fabrice Tourre liable isn't enough to change this: The SEC's track record on prosecuting financial crisis crimes is pathetic. In nearly five years, the Wall Street regulator has brought just four court cases related to the financial crisis against a total of six individuals, all of whom were relative bit players. Of those, Tourre is the only one to be found liable.
"Their track [record] of the cases that have gone to trial has not be very good," says Thomas Gorman, a partner at law firm Dorsey and Whitney and a former SEC enforcement official
And the SEC's actual record is more like 1-in-7. That's because the SEC settled charges against former Bear Stearns hedge fund managers Ralph Cioffi and Matthew Tannin after the two were acquitted in a criminal trial brought by the Department of Justice. A judge signed off on the SEC's settlement only after calling the fine the regulator imposed "chump change." In another instance, the SEC had to do an about-face and ask a judge to drop a case it had brought against Edward Steffelin, who had advised JPMorgan Chase (JPM) on a mortgage bond that went bust. In response, the New York Times wrote that "if Mr. Steffelin is going to emerge as a 'poster child' for anything, it will be as a victim of regulatory overreach."
And we know there were far more than nine people who made deals during the financial crisis that were less than they seemed. Private investors have brought cases that have uncovered e-mails and other evidence that prove bankers knew they were selling clients garbage, like the one against Morgan Stanley (MS) in which its bankers suggested a deal they were putting together be called "shitbag." Yet, Morgan Stanley had never paid a fine to the SEC related to a mortgage deal. The SEC has recently said it will take a look at some of these private cases to see if there is anything they missed. Good thinking.
The SEC has brought 55 other financial crisis related cases that were settled before they went to trial, in some instances for big fines. Goldman, for one, paid $550 million. But most of the settlements were with companies, not individuals. And the total amount comes nowhere near to what investors actually lost on Wall Street's crappy mortgage bonds, or the pain suffered by the people who got a mortgage funded by these Wall Street deals that they believed was safe but ended in foreclosure.
Nevertheless, the SEC was quick to take a victory lap after the Tourre result. Andrew Ceresney, co-director of the SEC's Division of Enforcement, said in a statement, "We will continue to vigorously seek to hold accountable, and bring to trial when necessary, those who commit fraud on Wall Street."
But it's five years, and it's one. So, you know, hold the champagne.