Revelations of the close ties of between a former SEC commissioner and key SEC policymakers are reviving questions about a so-called “revolving door” in which the lure of future high-paying jobs may improperly influence government decisions.
A Bloomberg investigative report published Wednesday documented the e-mail correspondence to the SEC from a former commissioner, Annette Nazareth, a lawyer representing large banks and securities firms for the Washington office of David Polk & Wardwell, an elite law firm.
While those e-mails appear to exhibit a carefully cultivated relationship of influence and at least two revolving door-type anecdotes, the article is all the more interesting because it comes just a week after the SEC’s enforcement chief, Robert Khuzami (left), published an opinion article denying there is any kind of revolving door in Washington.
What’s more, Khuzami cited as supporting evidence a new academic study published last month by four accounting professors who conclude the revolving door does not undermine SEC enforcement.
Bloomberg’s investigation turned up numerous e-mails, obtained in a Freedom of Information request, that Nazareth sent former SEC colleagues.
In one e-mail, Nazareth attached an annotated copy of draft legislation, sent (before the start of the work week on a Sunday) two days after a 20-hour marathon session when legislators concluded negotiations on the rules that would become the Dodd-Frank Act.
In another e-mail, sent to SEC General Counsel and Senior Policy Director David Becker, Nazareth offered a summary of a 1,100-page Senate proposal regarding Dodd-Frank, to which Becker replied “more nap time for me,” implying his dependence on lobbyist Nazareth’s extensive efforts.
In another e-mail, Nazareth obtained an impromptu meeting with Becker, in another she scheduled a friendly lunch, and in still others the two exchanged thoughts on the “inanity” of Dodd-Frank’s proposed SEC investor advocate position and the new consumer protection agency which made Nazareth “feel ill.”
The revolving-door concept was best demonstrated in two e-mails, one in which Becker asked Nazareth to recommend a lawyer for an SEC job, and another in which Nazareth told Becker she recommended him for a legal position for which headhunters had called her. The Bloomberg article noted that SEC pay tops out at $240,000 for staff, but a partner at Nazareth’s firm can make as much as $2.3 million.