May 20, 2009

While this may not solve everything, I can't help but think that a shakeup, a reminder that sometimes actions (or inactions) do have consequences, would be an excellent idea for this agency:

May 20 (Bloomberg) -- The Obama administration may call for stripping the Securities and Exchange Commission of some of its powers under a regulatory reorganization that could be unveiled as soon as next week, people familiar with the matter said.

The proposal, still being drafted, is likely to give the Federal Reserve more authority to supervise financial firms deemed too big to fail. The Fed may inherit some SEC functions, with others going to other agencies, the people said. On the table: giving oversight of mutual funds to a bank regulator or a new agency to police consumer-finance products, two people said.

The 75-year-old SEC, chartered to oversee Wall Street and safeguard investors, has seen its reputation tarnished as some lawmakers blamed it for missing the incipient financial crisis and failing to detect Bernard Madoff’s $65 billion Ponzi scheme. Any move to rein in the agency is likely to provoke a battle in Congress, which would need to approve the changes, and draw the ire of union pension funds and other advocates for shareholders.

“It would be a terrible mistake,” said Stanley Sporkin, a former federal judge and enforcement chief at the SEC. “Whatever the SEC has done or didn’t do, it is still the premier investor protection agency around.”

Yes, and it's been doing such a great job up until now, hasn't it?

SEC Chairman Mary Schapiro’s agency has been mostly absent from negotiations within the administration on the regulatory overhaul, and she has expressed frustration about not being consulted, according to people who have spoken with her. She has pledged to fight any attempt to diminish the SEC, they said.

Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner was set to discuss proposals to change financial regulations at a dinner last night with National Economic Council Director Lawrence Summers, former Fed Chairman Paul Volcker, ex-SEC Chairman Arthur Levitt and Elizabeth Warren, the Harvard University law professor who heads the congressional watchdog group for the $700 billion Troubled Asset Relief Program.

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