And lest you think this is all a hot-aired rant from the left, it’s worth reading his treatment of the strange, and strangely under-covered, case of SEC investigator Gary Aguirre, who lost his job when he tried to interview Wall Street stud John Mack in an insider-trading probe:
Aguirre joined the SEC in September 2004. Two days into his career as a financial investigator, he was asked to look into an insider-trading complaint against a hedge-fund megastar named Art Samberg. One day, with no advance research or discussion, Samberg had suddenly started buying up huge quantities of shares in a firm called Heller Financial. “It was as if Art Samberg woke up one morning and a voice from the heavens told him to start buying Heller,” Aguirre recalls. “And he wasn’t just buying shares — there were some days when he was trying to buy three times as many shares as were being traded that day.” A few weeks later, Heller was bought by General Electric — and Samberg pocketed $18 million.
After some digging, Aguirre found himself focusing on one suspect as the likely source who had tipped Samberg off: John Mack, a close friend of Samberg’s who had just stepped down as president of Morgan Stanley. At the time, Mack had been on Samberg’s case to cut him into a deal involving a spinoff of the tech company Lucent — an investment that stood to make Mack a lot of money. “Mack is busting my chops” to give him a piece of the action, Samberg told an employee in an e-mail.
A week later, Mack flew to Switzerland to interview for a top job at Credit Suisse First Boston. Among the investment bank’s clients, as it happened, was a firm called Heller Financial. We don’t know for sure what Mack learned on his Swiss trip; years later, Mack would claim that he had thrown away his notes about the meetings. But we do know that as soon as Mack returned from the trip, on a Friday, he called up his buddy Samberg. The very next morning, Mack was cut into the Lucent deal—a favor that netted him more than $10 million. And as soon as the market reopened after the weekend, Samberg started buying every Heller share in sight, right before it was snapped up by GE—a suspiciously timed move that earned him the equivalent of Derek Jeter’s annual salary for just a few minutes of work.
Needless to say, the probe didn’t go well, Aguirre was fired, and the SEC eventually paid him a settlement of $755,000 for wrongful dismissal.
Especially chilling for those of us who have covered this kind of thing is to read about the all-star roster of former prosecutors now lined up on Wall Street’s side: Mary Jo White, Eric Dinallo, Gary Lynch, etc.
“It wasn’t just one rotation of the revolving door,” says Aguirre. “It just kept spinning. Every single person had rotated in and out of government and private service.”
This is a smart story. Read the whole thing and be depressed.
—Continuing with a certain, ahem, theme, the WSJ’s Shira Ovide catches Bill Gross going off on his fellow financiers.
As a profession we have failed miserably at our primary function - the efficient and productive allocation of capital
And there’s about 2,000 more words where those came from.
—Stan Collender finds a good poll of Tea Party supporters in South Dakota:
DAKOTAPOLL FINDS LARGE MAJORITY OF TEA PARTY SUPPORTERS FAVOR SALES TAX INCREASE FOR EDUCATION
As Collender says: “Psst…Tea Party is Just Like Everyone Else…Pass it Around.”
— Finally, Barry Ritholtz does a good job with unemployment numbers: Worse than they look.