Whose Job Is It?

In a feature article this past weekend, the Washington Post addressed the issue of investor restitution for securities fraud. The article discusses some of the recent enormous settlements with regulators (e.g. the $1.4 billion settlement with the New York Attorney General over biased research reports) and concludes that the “problems with investor restitution are simple — there is never enough money to go around — and complicated — it can be difficult to determine who should get what little money there is.” The article also touches on another difficult problem, how to reconcile the SEC’s new powers to collect settlement funds for allocation to investors with private securities litigation.

Quote of note: “The SEC is asking Congress for the power to seize more assets from wrongdoers who otherwise might shelter them under the protection of state bankruptcy laws and for the ability to hire outside law firms to help it collect payments. A House bill [the Securities Fraud Deterrence and Investor Restitution Act] that would give the SEC that authority is pending before the Judiciary Committee. Former SEC staffer [Mercer E.] Bullard said the public shouldn’t demand that the agency invest a substantial portion of its resources into collecting penalties from wrongdoers. He said that is a task better suited to plaintiff lawyers.”

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