Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Government Failure: Another Example

Regulations will not work if the regulators refuse to do their jobs. With regards to the massive $8 billion dollar Robert Allen Stanford fraud, the SEC did just that. An internal report released on the same day the Goldman case was filed (of course), revealed that the SEC knew of the fraud as far back as 1997.

The OIG investigation found that the SEC’s Fort Worth office was aware since 1997 that Robert Allen Stanford was likely operating a Ponzi scheme, having come to that conclusion a mere two years after Stanford Group Company (“SGC”), Stanford’s investment adviser, registered with the SEC in 1995. We found that over the next 8 years, the SEC’s Fort Worth Examination group conducted four examinations of Stanford’s operations, finding in each examination that the CDs could not have been “legitimate,” and that it was “highly unlikely” that the returns Stanford claimed to generate could have been achieved with the purported conservative investment approach. Fort Worth examiners dutifully conducted examinations of Stanford in 1997, 1998, 2002 and 2004, concluding in each case that Stanford’s CDs were likely a Ponzi scheme or a similar fraudulent scheme. The only significant difference in the Examination group’s findings over the years was that the potential fraud grew exponentially, from $250 million to $1.5 billion.

While the Fort Worth Examination group made multiple efforts after each examination to convince the Fort Worth Enforcement program (“Enforcement”) to open and conduct an investigation of Stanford, no meaningful effort was made by Enforcement to investigate the potential fraud or to bring an action to attempt to stop it until late 2005. In 1998, Enforcement opened a brief inquiry, but then closed it after only 3 months, when Stanford failed to produce documents evidencing the fraud in response to a voluntary document request from the SEC. In 2002, no investigation was opened even after the examiners specifically identified multiple violations of securities laws by Stanford in an examination report. In 2003, after receiving three separate complaint letters about Stanford’s operations, Enforcement decided not to open an investigation or even an inquiry, and did not follow up to obtain more information about the complaints.

It is any wonder why I am so cynical over government control and fixes for our economy?

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