Remember Lehman Brothers? Bank that went under in 2008? Had some maybe questionable business going on with its balance sheet? The SEC has been trying its darndest for a while now to prove the company and its senior staff, led by a guy named Dick, violated securities laws but in over two years have come up with nothing and are pretty tuckered out. The Commission knows some people will be pretty ticked off if no lawsuits are ever brought against Richard Fuld and his backup dancers, which is why they've come up with an alternative that they think is nearly as good. No civil actions but instead- tell them what you think of this- Lehman Brothers is publicly rebuked? That'll send a message, eh?
U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission investigators may issue a public rebuke of Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. and its former executives instead of suing them for actions that led to the firm’s 2008 failure, three people with direct knowledge of the matter said. SEC enforcement lawyers, who have struggled for more than two years to find definitive evidence that the company and its leaders violated securities laws, are concerned that a legal attack on Lehman’s accounting practices would likely fail, the people said, speaking on condition of anonymity because the deliberations aren’t public.
Instead, the enforcement staff may recommend that the agency take the rare step of publishing a so-called report of investigation, also known as a 21(a) report. The commission would have to vote on whether to issue a report and it’s still possible that the SEC may decide to bring legal claims in court, the people said. The 21(a) reports, which lay out allegations of misconduct without imposing penalties, have only been issued six times in the past decade, according to the SEC’s website.
James Cox, a securities law professor at Duke University School of Law, said it would be “disappointing” if the SEC didn’t bring fraud charges against Lehman and its executives. The rebuke is “about the least harmful sanction anybody could get,” Cox said.