At the S.E.C., a Chance to Get Tougher on Settlements
Making Them Pay (and Confess)
MARY JO WHITE will have a long to-do list at the Securities and Exchange Commission.
By nominating Ms. White, a former federal prosecutor, to head the S.E.C. last week, President Obama appeared to send a message that Washington was finally going to get tough with financial wrongdoers. Tough enforcement has been pretty much AWOL on his watch. Maybe Ms. White can change that with a new, aggressive approach.
Here’s a good place to start: The S.E.C. routinely lets companies and individuals settle cases against them without admitting or denying its findings. This lets bad actors pretend that they’ve done nothing wrong. It also makes it harder for investors to mount successful lawsuits against them.
Regulators say this is the best approach. The practice, they contend, helps the S.E.C. and other agencies avoid costly, time-consuming litigation that would tax already-stretched resources. Quick settlements, rather than long trials, mean victims get restitution faster. And there’s always the possibility that the S.E.C. might lose in court.