Retiring SEC Lawyer Was Just Trying To Offer Constructive Criticism When He Gave A Speech Telling Agency Brass They're A Bunch Of Useless Corporate Whores

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If anyone felt the remarks went too far, well, James Kidney is sorry you feel that way.

James Kidney, who joined the SEC in 1986 and retired this month, offered the critique in a speech at his goodbye party. His remarks hit home with many in the crowd of SEC lawyers and alumni thanks to a part of his resume not publicly known: He had campaigned internally to bring charges against more executives in the agency’s 2010 case against Goldman Sachs Group Inc. The SEC has become “an agency that polices the broken windows on the street level and rarely goes to the penthouse floors,” Kidney said, according to a copy of his remarks obtained by Bloomberg News. “On the rare occasions when enforcement does go to the penthouse, good manners are paramount. Tough enforcement, risky enforcement, is subject to extensive negotiation and weakening.” Kidney said his superiors were more focused on getting high-paying jobs after their government service than on bringing difficult cases. The agency’s penalties, Kidney said, have become “at most a tollbooth on the bankster turnpike.” [...] Kidney said in the interview that he will always be an SEC loyalist and was trying to offer constructive criticism that could help the agency. He said he wasn’t singling out any specific cases or officials in his comments...

In his retirement speech, Kidney noted that he had been “involved in a high-profile case or two” and said he had gotten a message from above not to take too many risks. “I have had bosses, and bosses of my bosses, whose names we all know, who made little secret that they were here to punch their ticket,” Kidney said. “They mouthed serious regard for the mission of the commission, but their actions were tentative and fearful in many instances.”

SEC Goldman Lawyer Says Agency Too Timid on Wall Street Misdeeds [Bloomberg]

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