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Stanford Conviction Re-Emphasizes Regulatory Questions

Report says SEC missed earlier opportunities to investigate Allen Stanford ... Over a meal at a New Orleans restaurant last summer, a former top official at the Securities and Exchange Commission's enforcement office was asked why the agency hadn't opened a full investigation of Allen Stanford's investment firm back in the late 1990s, when agency employees first suspected he was operating a Ponzi scheme. Julie Preuitt, an employee at the enforcement office, said her former supervisor, Spencer Barasch, now a private attorney, replied that he asked a representative of Stanford's firm about the allegations and was told "there wasn't" anything to the charges. "So, he was satisfied with that and decided not to pursue it further," Preuitt told the commission's inspector general. – Times Picayune

Dominant Social Theme: Financial regulators have been reformed and will do better henceforth.

Free-Market Analysis: One of the areas that we've often commented on is the inability of regulatory democracy to work as advertised. Now (if reports are to be believed) it turns out that Allen Stanford was running a Ponzi scheme with about US$7 billion of customer assets.

It also turns out that SEC officials had doubts about Stanford's operation as long as 15 years ago. We can see from the article excerpted above that when these doubts surfaced, the reaction was to question a "representative" of Stanford's firm about them and then take his denials at face value.

We are not, of course, promoting the idea that the regulators should be any more invasive than they already are. Our point would be, simply, that regulatory democracy doesn't work, that those hired to police the powerful often end up being compromised by them.

Later on the article tells us that Spencer Barasch himself went to work for Stanford after leaving the SEC. This, too, is something we've mentioned. We've actually characterized it as a syndrome called "regulatory capture" and pointed out that it is almost inevitable.

The larger issue, of course, is why – if regulation doesn't work – there is so much of it. Inevitably, when modern Western regulation doesn't work the solution is to create more and bigger public entities and give them even more power.

In actuality, this occurs because there is likely a power elite that in the modern era has been manipulating much of the world's economic and sociopolitical evolution to ensure that the direction in which it is headed includes global governance.

These elites use governments to realize their aims behind the scenes via mercantilism. That's why big government, big business and big regulation is to their benefit – the bigger the better.

These Anglosphere elites are continually fomenting crises and then proposing solutions that require ever-more complex governmental entities. As they do so, those allied with these solutions grow in number. This explains the inevitable bias towards regulatory and legal solutions that don't work and never have in the past. Here's more from the article:

A 159-page report by the inspector general issued Friday ... says the agency four times, starting in 1997, failed to follow up on serious accusations against Stanford's investment firm, potentially costing investors more than $1 billion ...

"The depth of the failure at the SEC in the Stanford investigation is unbelievable," Vitter said Monday. "There were four examinations in 1997, 1998, 2002, and 2004, and in each case examiners concluded that Stanford's CDs were likely a Ponzi scheme. Yet the SEC did absolutely nothing while Stanford fleeced investors for roughly $8 billion."

Barasch, now a partner at the Andrews Kurth Law Firm, has denied he relied on assurances from a company represent to block a full-scale investigation. "Spencer Barasch served the SEC with honor, integrity and distinction," said Bob Jewell, the managing partner at Andrews Kurth. ... "We believe he acted properly during his contacts with the Stanford Financial Group and the Securities and Exchange Commission. He did not violate conflicts of interest."

Just as with the massive fraud perpetuated by Bernard Madoff, the inspector general said, the SEC missed opportunities to alert investors they were putting their money in investments doomed to failure because they were fraudulent.

We can see in this excerpt all of the elements that are frustrating and puzzling to those who don't believe that regulatory democracy provides reasonable solutions. The lead investigator apparently went to work for the man he was charged with investigating and even though the firm was investigated four times, nothing much occurred. The same pattern occurred with the Bernie Madoff "Ponzi Scheme."

It seems regulatory democracy is really a methodology to reinforce bigness. The more complex the industry, the more encumbered it is with red tape, the more difficult it is for new challengers to create better businesses. The "old guard" remains in charge. In fact, these regulatory entities – not just in America but throughout the West – are a kind of public relations play.

The article itself points out that the reason charges against Stanford were not set sooner was because regulators "preferred simpler cases that could be dispensed with quickly. The Stanford case is extremely complicated."

Mary Schapiro, the current SEC chairwoman, is quoted as saying that much continues to change "regarding the agency's leadership, its internal procedures and its culture of collaboration. The report makes seven recommendations, most of which have been implemented since 2005."

This is just the problem, of course. There is a "culture of collaboration" between agencies and entities that are regulated via regulatory capture and this will NEVER change. Give regulators more power and larger budgets and you merely increase the size and scale of the problem.

We've suggested that the real solution is "downsizing." We have come to believe that the current system is unraveling because of the effects of the Internet (the Internet Reformation) and the unrealizability of what the elites have in mind.

In a future comprised of smaller communal entities, perhaps viable solutions shall once more be erected. These would include private solutions to public problems (what we have called private justice) and would eschew large regulatory antidotes that only exacerbate what is already difficult.

Conclusion

When people believe that "others" are looking out for them, they tend to be more passive and less aware. This is yet another problem of regulatory authority, which chokes out private sector watchdogs but doesn't replace them with anything remotely effective.

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Anthony Wile, High Alert's Chief Investment Advisor and Chairman of the Partnership Selection Committee, is an active investor, business strategist and consultant, financial markets commentator, publisher and author.

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