Senator Chuck Grassley, Republican of Iowa, says SEC may have destroyed documents
“From what I’ve seen, it looks as if the SEC might have sanctioned some level of case-related document destruction,” said Sen. Chuck Grassley, Republican of Iowa, in a letter to the agency’s chairman, Mary Schapiro.Senator Grassley's Letter to the SEC
“It doesn’t make sense that an agency responsible for investigations would want to get rid of potential evidence. If these charges are true, the agency needs to explain why it destroyed documents, how many documents it destroyed over what timeframe, and to what extent its actions were consistent with the law.”
Agency staff “destroyed over 9,000 files” related to preliminary agency investigations, according to a letter sent in July to Grassley, the top Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, and obtained by MarketWatch.
The allegations were made by SEC enforcement attorney, Darcy Flynn, in a letter to Grassley. Flynn is a current employee, and according to the letter, received a bonus for his past year’s work.
Flynn alleges the SEC destroyed files related to matters being examined in important cases such as Bernard Madoff and a $50 billion Ponzi scheme he operated as well as an investigation involving Goldman Sachs Group Inc. trading in American International Group credit-default swaps in 2009.
Flynn also alleged that the agency destroyed documents and information collected for preliminary investigations at Wells Fargo, Bank of America,, Citigroup, Credit Suisse, Deutsche Bank, Morgan Stanley, and the now-bankrupt Lehman Brothers.
The letter goes into particular detail about Deutsche Bank, the former employer of current SEC enforcement chief Robert Khuzami as well as former enforcement chiefs Gary Lynch and Richard Walker.
The allegations that the SEC destroyed documents were first reported by the Rolling Stone magazine in a report Wednesday.
Imagine a world in which a man who is repeatedly investigated for a string of serious crimes, but never prosecuted, has his slate wiped clean every time the cops fail to make a case. No more Lifetime channel specials where the murderer is unveiled after police stumble upon past intrigues in some old file – “Hey, chief, didja know this guy had two wives die falling down the stairs?” No more burglary sprees cracked when some sharp cop sees the same name pop up in one too many witness statements. This is a different world, one far friendlier to lawbreakers, where even the suspicion of wrongdoing gets wiped from the record.That is the opening snip. The entire article is worth a read.
That, it now appears, is exactly how the Securities and Exchange Commission has been treating the Wall Street criminals who cratered the global economy a few years back. For the past two decades, according to a whistle-blower at the SEC who recently came forward to Congress, the agency has been systematically destroying records of its preliminary investigations once they are closed. By whitewashing the files of some of the nation’s worst financial criminals, the SEC has kept an entire generation of federal investigators in the dark about past inquiries into insider trading, fraud and market manipulation against companies like Goldman Sachs, Deutsche Bank and AIG. With a few strokes of the keyboard, the evidence gathered during thousands of investigations – “18,000 … including Madoff,” as one high-ranking SEC official put it during a panicked meeting about the destruction – has apparently disappeared forever into the wormhole of history.
Under a deal the SEC worked out with the National Archives and Records Administration, all of the agency’s records – “including case files relating to preliminary investigations” – are supposed to be maintained for at least 25 years. But the SEC, using history-altering practices that for once actually deserve the overused and usually hysterical term “Orwellian,” devised an elaborate and possibly illegal system under which staffers were directed to dispose of the documents from any preliminary inquiry that did not receive approval from senior staff to become a full-blown, formal investigation. Amazingly, the wholesale destruction of the cases – known as MUIs, or “Matters Under Inquiry” – was not something done on the sly, in secret. The enforcement division of the SEC even spelled out the procedure in writing, on the commission’s internal website. “After you have closed a MUI that has not become an investigation,” the site advised staffers, “you should dispose of any documents obtained in connection with the MUI.”
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