August 14, 2014

SEC Probes Internal Leak: No Smoking Gun

As I’ve remarked on occasion, it’s been mindblowing how many times rumors seem to leak from the highest levels of the SEC to the media over the past decade (eg. here’s an example). That sort of thing never happened before then. As noted in this CNBC article, the SEC’s Inspector General recently spent months trying to uncover who leaked details about a closed Commission meeting about the JPMorgan “London Whale” settlement – but no smoking gun was found. Here’s an article from the Hill.

According to the articles, the level of detail in this 16-page report from OIG is pretty wild, even with parts of it redacted. It notes who was interviewed during the investigation (all of the SEC commissioners, 5 staffers of the Office of the Chair and 18 staffers of the Offices of the Commissioners) and much more. In his blog, Steven Quinlivan breaks down some of it too.

Bizarrely, I couldn’t find this OIG report on the SEC’s site. Here’s OIG’s webpage with all of its available reports if you want to check yourself. Instead, it was released as part of a FOIA request I believe based on the document’s URL

More on “The SEC Commissioners Rebel! Are the Wheels Coming Off?”

A few months back, I blogged about how the battles among the SEC Commissioners has intensified in ways not previously seen before in public. This Bloomberg article profiling Commissioner Kara Stein – entitled “Ghosts of 2008 Haunt SEC’s ‘Outsider’ as She Pushes for Tough Rules” – adds some more backstory to this theme…

This DealBook article really slams the performance of SEC Chair White after one year…

Good Ole Days: The Zany Dash for Filing the First CEO/CFO Certifications

Today is the 12th anniversary of the due date for the first batch of CEO/CFO certifications from the 1000 largest companies (ie. that their past filings contained no material misstatements nor material omissions). It was a wild time as Sarbanes-Oxley had just been enacted a few weeks before. For those practicing back then, you will recall how the passage of Sarbanes-Oxley came out of the blue as reform legislation had little chance of becoming law until WorldCom suddenly failed and Congress acted swiftly in response.

I’ll say it again. It was completely unexpected.

The importance of that can’t be underscored enough. So there wasn’t much lobbying on the bill nor was there much attention paid to the details of the law by the law’s drafters since it sailed through Congress in a heartbeat. The law was relatively huge in scope, with a potpourri of topics – and as we all got back from vacation and started to look at it, it became clear that Congress seemed to overlook that one of the key provisions took effect pretty quick as the rest of the law’s provisions required SEC rulemaking first. Although the Section 302 CEO/CFO certifications required SEC rulemaking first, that delay did not apply to the initial set of Section 906 certifications due with the next batch of 10-Qs. Yikes! I blogged about this back on July 31, 2002, the day after SOX was signed into law.

So these first certifications were due on August 14th, just two weeks after Sarbanes-Oxley was enacted. And CEOs and CFOs suddenly had to attest to their company’s financials, etc. with scant time to prepare – nor did they have the comfort of the sub-certification machinery that many companies have today. Throw in that Section 906 was regulated by the DOJ (which was the principal reason why these certs were not delayed) and had criminal possibilities attached to them. Truly, an anxious time.

And this was during an era before webcasts were born. Instead, I held an impromptu CEO/CFO certification teleconference and folks had to RSVP by fax. My fax machine went berserk for days…

– Broc Romanek