Skip to comments.PJM Exclusive: Congress Questions Obama’s SEC Chief Embroiled in New Madoff Scandal
Posted on 03/03/2011 1:27:34 PM PST by jazusamo
Chairwoman Mary Schapiro's general counsel is accused of having a conflict of interest in the Madoff affair that Schapiro knew about.
Two influential congressional leaders are directly challenging Security and Exchange Commission Chairwoman Mary Schapiro as a new Bernard Madoff scandal engulfs the agency, this one involving charges of conflicts of interest by her own general counsel. Pajamas Media has obtained a copy of the letter sent to the SEC chairwoman.
Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) and Sen. Charles Grassley (R-IA) today sent a sharply worded joint letter to the SEC chief, demanding she explain why the she appointed General Counsel David Becker to represent the agency in the Ponzi scheme fraud case when she allegedly knew that he had personally profited from Madoff. The lengthy letter which asks 35 questions to Schapiro and her aides calls the allegations alarming.
Beckers participation in any aspect of the Commissions involvement with the aftermath of Madoffs fraud suggests multiple conflicts of interest, the two powerful congressional members told Schapiro in a letter. Her failure, they said, raised further questions about its management and independence.
Rep. Issa is chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. He has recently reinvigorated the committee to examine government fairness and openness. Sen. Grassely is the ranking Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee. An aggressive congressional probe over another SEC-Madoff scandal may give President Obama many new headaches. It can raise fresh questions about the presidents promise of a clean government, fairness to wronged investors, and handling of the economy. It also could weaken or endanger Schapiros tenure.
The charge that the SEC may have shortchanged Madoff victims, however, may carry the biggest impact of all. The revelations about Becker do raise questions about the agencys fairness in a final resolution with Madoff victims.
Schapiro apparently had assigned Becker to represent the agency in the aftermath of the Madoff case even while reportedly knowing his family had received money from Madoff. Beckers late mothers estate is named defendant in a lawsuit seeking $1.5 million in profits they made from Madoff. The lawsuit was filed by Irving Picard, the official trustee who is trying to recover money for the Madoff victims.
Originally, the SEC was widely criticized as incompetent in uncovering the Madoff scandal. An SEC inspectors general report said the agency overlooked more than ample evidence that red-flagged the Bernard Madoff Ponzi scheme. In her confirmation hearings, Schapiro vowed to reinvigorate SEC enforcement efforts in the wake of the Bernard Madoff investment scandal. This new scandal may tarnish the reputation of President Obamas top corporate watchdog chief.
Issa and Grassley say the case exposes multiple ethical lapses within the agency. They charge that while Schapiro knew Becker had received money from a Madoff account, it appears she never ordered Becker to determine his familys possible clawback liability in the Madoff bankruptcy case. They ask the SEC chief why she apparently did not ask Becker whether the advice he was providing might affect his personal financial interest. Also troubling, an SEC ethics counsel reportedly gave Becker a waiver request 25 minutes after Becker made it. The SEC official, William Lenox, reportedly accepted Beckers incorrect assertion that the work would not affect his financial interest.
It also has been reported that Beckers financial interest and conflicts were not disclosed to the Commissions inspector general or to the public until Becker was sued by Picard in the Madoff bankruptcy case.
Becker did ask for a waiver to continue representing the case but did not fully disclose his financial interest to the ethics office, a congressional aide told Pajamas Media.
Becker left the SEC in late February.
The SEC has until March 7 to reply to the lawmakers.
Richard Pollock is the Washington, D.C., editor for Pajamas Media and the Washington bureau chief of PJTV.
Very interesting. Issa and Grassley are doing what we sent them to Congress for.
I commend these efforts, but my view is the Baraqqis will tell everybody they don’t give a shiite.
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