Audit Notes: Citi’s Slaps, College Is Cheap, Voicemail Interception Compensation Scheme

Bloomberg’s Jonathan Weil has an excellent, tough column on the latest settlement between Citigroup and the SEC, which shows how “Citigroup Finds Obeying the Law Is Too Darn Hard”:

Five times since 2003 the Securities and Exchange Commission has accused Citigroup Inc. (C)’s main broker-dealer subsidiary of securities fraud. On each occasion the company’s SEC settlements have followed a familiar pattern.

Citigroup neither admitted nor denied the SEC’s claims. And the company consented to the entry of either a court injunction or an SEC order barring it from committing the same types of violations again. Those “obey-the-law” directives haven’t meant much. The SEC keeps accusing Citigroup of breaking the same laws over and over, without ever attempting to enforce the prior orders. The SEC’s most recent complaint against Citigroup, filed last month, is no different.

Here’s what makes the SEC’s conduct doubly outrageous: The commission already had two cease-and-desist orders in place against the same Citigroup unit, barring future violations of the same section of the securities laws that the company now stands accused of breaking again. One of those orders came in a 2005 settlement, the other in a 2006 case. The SEC’s complaint last month didn’t mention either order, as if the entire agency suffered from amnesia.


This post at The New York Times Economix blog shows how the price of college tuition is cheaper than most of us assume. You’ve got to look past the sticker price.

Judith Scott-Clayton, who teaches here at Columbia (perhaps I should say “there at Columbia” since I’m in Seattle), posts this chart, which includes government grants and college-based grants:

Average tuition and fees after grants at four-year public colleges is just $2,490 a year, which is less than $100 a credit hour assuming 15 hours of classes per semester.

This growing gap between sticker prices and net prices is not a bad thing; it enables colleges (or states) to price discriminate. Because tuition at most public and nonprofit institutions fails to cover per-student expenditures, keeping published prices low would mean providing a blanket subsidy to all students regardless of need.

The trade-off, however, is increased complexity, and often total confusion. Many students and their families consider only published prices when comparing colleges, without taking financial aid into account.

— Murdoch’s Hacking/Police Bribery Scandal spread to The Sun today as its district editor was arrested for corruption.

Unsurprising, but check out this paragraph down in the New York Times’s news story:

Meanwhile, News International announced Friday that it had set up what it called a “speedy, cost-effective alternative to litigation” that would allow phone-hacking victims to apply for swift out-of-court settlements through a company Web site. The purpose of the program, called the Voicemail Interception Compensation Scheme, is to “progress good claims quickly to an award of compensation, not to get bogged down in complex legal arguments and speculative requests for disclosure of documents,” the company says on the site.

News Corp. hacked so many phones, on such an industrial scale, that it has to set up a website for its Voicemail Interception Compensation Scheme, which itself sounds vaguely sinister.

Been hacked? Here you go.

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Ryan Chittum is a former Wall Street Journal reporter, and deputy editor of The Audit, CJR's business section. If you see notable business journalism, give him a heads-up at Follow him on Twitter at @ryanchittum. Tags: , , , ,