Tuesday, February 9, 2010

SEC Tries to Regroup

From the NY Times:

In the headquarters of the Securities and Exchange Commission, Mr. Madoff’s name is rarely spoken. More than seven months after he was sentenced to prison for orchestrating a global Ponzi scheme, shaken S.E.C. employees are still struggling to come to grips with how they failed to catch him before it was too late.

Many here refer to the scandal — a $65 billion fraud that, despite several red flags, went undetected by the S.E.C. for more than two decades — as “the event” or “the incident.”

It is the job of Robert S. Khuzami, the S.E.C. head of enforcement, to unmask the next Madoff — and, equally daunting, to convince skeptics that the commission can reassert itself and adequately police Wall Street.

Since arriving at the S.E.C. a year ago this month, just as the Madoff scandal was grabbing headlines, Mr. Khuzami has cut red tape, created specialized teams to plumb hedge funds and other worrisome areas and tried to make the S.E.C. quicker and more nimble.

Unlike some at the commission, Mr. Khuzami, 53, talks openly about the Madoff fiasco. “For a group of people committed to investor protection and prevention, the tragedy of investors’ losses are not lost on anyone,” he said in an interview in his bright, corner office in Washington.

While Mary L. Schapiro, the chairwoman, is the public face of the commission, Mr. Khuzami and his lieutenants are the officers on the beat. Their first challenge is to shake off the psychic blow of the Madoff affair. Not since the 1950s, when budget cuts and deregulation defanged the commission, have its stature and influence sunk so low. Mr. Khuzami, a straight-talking former federal prosecutor and Wall Street executive, says he wants to infuse the S.E.C. with the ethos of a start-up company, making it faster, more proactive and even a bit entrepreneurial.

The jury is still out on how the SEC will perform. However, let's hope they get their act together.