Although the SEC has subsequently reinvestigated and cleared Pequot Capital and Morgan Stanley chief John Mack in connection with Pequot’s acquisition of a large state in Heller Financial in the weeks leading up its acquisition by GE, questions still linger over allegations that the initial investigation was quashed when the lead investigator sought to subpoena Mack. Now two Senate investigations are underway to determine whether the SEC failed to thoroughly conduct the initial investigation and whether politics played a role in that failure.
On Sunday the New York Times ran a story based on files the canned SEC investigator, Gary Aguirre, had turned over to Senate investigators. The evidence seems pretty damning.
The file shows that after Mr. Aguirre was blocked from questioning Mr. Mack about the Heller deal, Mr. Hanson, the S.E.C. branch chief, acknowledged in e-mail messages that he had discussed Mr. Mack’s “political clout” and the “juice” of his lawyers with officials at the commission.
In an exchange of e-mails in the summer of 2005, Mr. Hanson said that he had merely been trying to “alert folks above me,” and that politics did not influence S.E.C. decisions. Mr. Aguirre replied: “Bob, this is spin. You told me it would be tough to take Mack’s testimony because he has political clout.”
Ironically, these allegations of political corruption at the SEC are being substantiated at the same time lawmakers are considering giving the SEC more clout over hedge funds. This summer a federal court struck down regulations requiring hedge fund managers to register with the SEC and permit investigators to examine their books.
But if the SEC has trouble engaging in its core functions—investigating things like insider trading—does it really make sense to give the agency an even broader scope of authority?
S.E.C. Inquiry on Hedge Fund Draws Scrutiny