Bill Moyers
February 15, 2013
Bill Moyers Essay: As the SEC Door Revolves

BILL MOYERS: In our last episode of that Washington soap opera, “As the Door Revolves,” we introduced you to former federal prosecutor Mary Jo White, who left government to become a hot shot Wall Street lawyer defending such big firms as JP Morgan. "The New York Times" reports that she and her husband, who’s also a corporate litigator, have a net worth of at least $16 million and investments that might be valued as high as $35 million.

And now, courtesy of President Obama, Mary Jo White’s been named to head the SEC, the Securities and Exchange Commission -- the very agency that regulates her clients and everyone else doing business in the stock market.

But as they say on late night TV, wait, there’s more. Join us for our latest episode of “As the Door Revolves” in which the door spins ever faster between the SEC and big business. According to a major new report from the nonpartisan watchdog POGO – the Project on Government Oversight -- hundreds of the agency’s former employees have done or are doing business with the SEC on behalf of the corporations the agency is supposed to regulate.

Imagine – hundreds with an intimate knowledge of how the place works advocating for their clients with friends at the SEC -- colleagues who themselves may be looking for a big payoff when they, too, leave government.

No wonder the SEC has granted special waivers to business on some 350 occasions that, according to the report, “softened the blow of enforcement actions.” The plot thickens.

POGO also reports that when Obama’s first SEC chair, Mary Schapiro, pushed for reform of the money markets business, it was opposed by the two Republicans on the Commission and one Democrat, Luis Aguilar, who used to be an executive vice president with the money management firm Invesco.

He came out against Schapiro’s plan shortly after a meeting with Invesco officials. Coincidence? Aguilar told POGO there’s no connection.

Sure.

When George W. Bush was president and named Chris Cox to run the SEC, we screamed like bloody murder, because Cox had been a partner at a huge global law firm whose client list included Deutsche Bank and Goldman Sachs.

Now Obama’s pushing his choices through the same revolving door. It’s called “regulatory capture” – the takeover of government agencies by the very corporations they’re supposed to keep an eye on, to protect everyone’s investments and pensions against abuses of private power.

What next? Well, stay tuned. In the next few weeks, Mary Jo White will sit for her confirmation hearing before a committee stacked with politicians whose big donors include the financial industry.

At our website, BillMoyers.com, there’s an interview with POGO’s Michael Smallberg, who led the investigation. You can also read the complete report, find out how to forward it to your own member of Congress, then open your window and scream.

That’s all at BillMoyers.com. I’ll see you there and I’ll see you here, next time.

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