WASHINGTON — The Securities and Exchange Commission’s settlement last week with JPMorgan over payments former bankers made to get municipal bond and swap business from Jefferson County, Ala., as well as other recent enforcement actions, show the SEC is not afraid to pursue complex and difficult financial crimes, the agency’s head of enforcement said yesterday.
“We do every bit of sophisticated and detailed inquiries [and] we bring those kinds of cases on a regular basis,” SEC enforcement director Robert Khuzami said, speaking at Bloomberg’s Washington Summit here. “It may take us a little while to get there. These investigations can be challenging and difficult. But if you look at our track record, I don’t think those that are inclined to engage in misconduct can take much comfort from it.”
Khuzami’s remarks came in response to a question from a Bloomberg TV interviewer, who said the conventional wisdom is that Wall Street is always smarter and a step ahead of the regulators.
But Khuzami said he does not believe this is the case, noting last week’s settlement with JPMorgan, along with the second round of charges in its case against the New York hedge fund Galleon Group and its settlement with investment adviser Value Line Inc.
At part of the settlement, JPMorgan neither admitted or denied the SEC’s charges, but agreed to pay a penalty of $25 million to the federal government and $50 million to Jefferson County, as well as to forfeit more than $647 million of claimed swap termination fees.
At the same time, the SEC said it was also pursuing charges against two of the JPMorgan’s former managing directors — Charles LeCroy and Douglas MacFaddin. The suit alleges the pair made more than $8 million in undisclosed payments to close friends of certain Jefferson County commissioners and broker-dealers, including Goldman, Sachs & Co., to ensure that JPMorgan would be selected as managing underwriter of the bond offerings and that its affiliated bank would be chosen as the provider of swaps.
Speaking later to reporters, Khuzami said the SEC is close to announcing the heads of the five new specialized enforcement units that were announced in August, including one that focuses on municipal and pension fund fraud. He said the announcement is probably about two weeks away.