Audit Notes: Moody’s Market, Revolving Door, Tables Turned on Zuck

Kevin Hall of McClatchy has a great scoop on Moody’s CEO’s suspiciously timed stock sales.

In one case, CEO Ray McDaniel sold 100,000 shares of Moody’s stock on the same day that the Securities and Exchange Commission notified Moody’s that it was under investigation. The notice followed months of federal inquiries into Moody’s business practices.

McDaniel, who somehow still has a job despite the epic disaster his company enabled and participated in (he’s been at the helm since 2005), says these sales came in pre-arranged deals, but McClatchy reports that he won’t disclose details of those deals.

And Hall gets a tough quote here:

“If you look at his major sales in 2007, 2009, 2010, they are all around price peaks and followed by large declines. The likelihood that this is just ‘lucky’ is very low — it appears he is using inside information to time his trades,” said Jesse Fried, a Harvard University law professor who studies stock trading by CEOs.

Good stuff.

The New York Times looks at the revolving door this morning, noting that “nearly 150 lobbyists registered since last year used to work in the executive branch at financial agencies.”

One corporate lobbyist who worked as a regulator, asked whether he believed he had an inside edge in lobbying his ex-colleagues, said: “The answer is yes, it does. If it didn’t, I wouldn’t be able to justify getting out of bed in the morning and charging the outrageous fees that we charge our clients, which they willingly pay.”

The lobbyist, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of concerns about alienating government officials, added that “you have to work at an agency to understand the culture and the pressure points, and it helps to know the senior staff.”

The Times notes that senior officials can’t lobby their agencies for a year after leaving. My question is: Why aren’t officials banned from lobbying their former agencies, period?

This is where I bring up that Financial Times story from a while back that quoted a bunch of anonymous SEC officials and dropped this doozy in there:

…most of those interviewed asked for anonymity because their employers either work for Goldman or are being probed by the SEC.

— I loathe the idea of paparazzi, but I’m going to make an exemption for this one.

Gawker sent out a photog to invade Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s privacy for a weekend and post the pics online. Turnabout is surely fair play here. Ryan Tate:

If it feels a little naughty to take such a close look into Zuckerberg’s life, remember that this is the executive who pushed the private information of Facebook’s hundreds of millions of users progressively further into the public sphere. Facebook turned users’ friends lists into public information; it asked them to either publicize their likes and interests or delete such information entirely; it removed the option to conceal their profile photos; Facebook even let some partner websites tap into profiles without asking. The list goes on and on.

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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.