After reading Rep. Spencer Bachus’ (R-Ala.) OpEd piece in Monday’s Wall Street Journal, I suspect that I speak for many in the independent advisory community when I say that I honestly don’t know whether to laugh or cry. Having had some experience in editing, writing and reading such pieces over the years, I wouldn’t have thought it possible to fit so many faulty assumptions, wrong conclusions and inaccuracies into a 709-word article. This has to be some kind of record.
I suspect that, like many of our elected officials, Mr. Bachus didn’t actually write it himself (if I had to guess, I’d say it was someone at SIFMA), but I’d hope that the chairman of the House Committee on Financial Services would have taken the time to read and approve an opinion piece running in the nation’s financial newspaper of record under his byline. Of course, I could be wrong.
Frankly, I’m at loss to know where to begin parsing this masterpiece of misinformation. I suppose that as Maria von Trapp pointed out, the beginning is a good place to start: “Bernie Madoff, Matthew Hutcheson. Mark Spangler… …The federal regulators whose job is to enforce the law and protect investors from bad actors often had no clue or took no notice of what was going on right under their noses until it was too late.”
At the risk of being branded a stickler in our modern “perception is reality” culture, does it bother anyone but me that two out of three of these folks have yet to be convicted of anything? As one of our national leaders, Mr. Bachus should be aware of that, and of the implications for fair trials and liability exposure should one of them be proven innocent of all charges. And, of course, Madoff was caught by regulators, was convicted and is currently serving his sentence.
More troubling, though, is the implication that regulators or law enforcement aren’t doing their jobs if they don’t prevent people from committing crimes. Sure it happens sometimes, when the good guys are very good and very lucky—such as when passengers prevented a terrorist from exploding a device on Northwest Flight 253 over Detroit on Christmas Day 2009 (prompting Janet Napolitano to declare “the system worked”). But who stopped Roger Clemens or the Olsen twins (their $300 million net worth just seems wrong, if not qualifying literally as a crime)?