SEC hope – or missing the point – on Wall Street prosecutions

It’s being reported that the SEC and the mortgage fraud task force co-chaired by Eric Schneiderman that “[f]urther legal action is likely before the end of the year against firms involved in the origins of the housing bubble.” Obviously seeing criminal prosecutions of banksters would be a good outcome, as would much larger civil suits than anything we’ve seen so far.

But what stands out to me is this line from the SEC chair about what she thinks they’ve already done when it comes to holding bank executives accountable.

Schapiro noted that her agency already has “named over 100 individuals in financial crisis cases, many of them CEOs and CFOs and other senior executives.”

But to date, what has actually been done when it comes to prosecution is the pursuit of insider trading which hurt banks’ bottom lines, not accountability for hurting homeowners or defrauding pensions and 401ks. It reminds me of the absurd Time Magazine cover which holds up Preet Bharara as a feared Wall Street cop.

The simple reality is that the SEC’s toothless and ineffective no-fault settlements with banks and people like Bharara going after the people which cost banks money (not the other way around), law enforcement and regulators have continually taken accountability in the opposite direction of what the public wants. The state of holding bankers accountable in America actually reminds me of this brilliant I see a happy face panel:

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