House Panel Questions Timing of SEC Charges against Goldman
The House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform requested a "thorough and independent" investigation into concerns over possible violation or misconduct involved in the US Securities and Exchange Commission's (SEC) decision to bring action against Goldman Sachs (GS). The SEC is charging Goldman and one of its vice presidents for allegedly defrauding investors by misstating and omitting key facts about a financial product tied to subprime mortgages, demanding a jury trial for the allegations to be heard. The charges arrived just days before the US Senate would begin paving the way for sweeping financial regulatory reform through key procedural votes on reform bills. On April 20, eight members of the House Committee wrote to SEC chairman Mary Schapiro, asking whether some form of prearrangement or coordination took place between SEC officials and proponents of the legislation. "The timing of the [SEC's] filing of a civil securities fraud action against Goldman Sachs has created serious questions about the Commission's independence and partiality," the letter reads, in part. "The Goldman litigation…has been widely cited by Democrats in support of the financial regulatory legislation currently before the United States Senate." Although the SEC publicly responded to the committee members' initial letter that it does not coordinate its enforcement actions with the Administration, Congress or political committees, ranking Committee member Darrell Issa (R - CA) said the circumstances and events related to the charges "call the timing and release of the [SEC's charges] into question." In an April 23 follow-up letter to SEC inspector general David Kotz, Issa noted the timing of the Goldman charges coincided with the push for financial regulatory reform. On behalf of the members who penned the previous letter, Issa requested an investigation by the inspector general. "The circumstances of the filing and subsequent events fueled suspicion that the Commission…may have engaged in unauthorized disclosure or discussion of Commission proceedings in order to affect the debate over financial regulatory legislation currently pending before the United States Senate," Issa wrote. Spokespeople for the SEC and SEC inspector general's office did not immediately return calls seeking comment. Write to Diana Golobay. Disclosure: the author holds no relevant investments.