Audit Notes: SEC and Stanford, Goldman and Wells, Murdoch’s Personal Feuds

You’ve got to love this SEC investigation. I mean, of the SEC, not by it.

Talking Points Memo revisits an insector general’s report out a few days ago and zeroes in on the news here: that Spencer Barasch, then the Fort Worth SEC office’s chief enforcement officer, reapeatedly blocked investigations (to the surprise and dismay of staffers) of alleged Ponzi schemer Allen Stanford over seven years—and then hit the revolving door to represent him against the SEC.

Here’s just one of several example of Barasch missing the Stanford scheme:

In 2002, the Fort Worth office’s examination staff again looked at Stanford Financial and grew suspicious that “the international bank was a Ponzi scheme,” one staffer told the IG. They discussed the matter with the enforcement staff and forwarded a report on Stanford to Barasch. But Barasch told the IG that he couldn’t recall seeing it, and the IG found “no indication” that he ever read the report.

This one smells pretty bad. Read the whole thing.

— Why didn’t Goldman Sachs (an Audit funder) disclose to investors that it had received a Wells notice from the SEC? Footnoted is on that:

If Goldman’s argument was that the Wells Notice was not material, they may see some challenges from other very large companies that have disclosed Wells Notices in the past. A quick skim of Morningstar Document Research of companies over $50 billion in market cap that have disclosed the existence of Wells Notices in the past turns up General Electric (GE), Bank of America (BAC), UBS (UBS) and units of both Berkshire Hathaway (BRK.A) and of JP Morgan Chase (JPM).

If disclosing a Wells Notice was material enough for these companies, why was it not material enough for Goldman?

The day the charges officially dropped, Goldman lost some $12 billion of market capitalization.

Jeff Bercovici hears from multiple Wall Street Journal sources that despite what Murdoch vacation pal and Journal editor Robert Thomson, has said, he was behind the Sulzberger-is-a-girlie-man stunt in a recent Weekend Journal graphic.

And he makes a good point: (emphasis mine):

But what he hasn’t acknowledged publicly is that the very idea of using the illustration to tweak Sulzberger was his from the start — and that it wasn’t a popular one among his Journal subordinates, who aren’t used to seeing their news pages used to carry out Murdoch’s personal feuds (unlike, say, their counterparts at the New York Post).

Multiple Journal sources supplied both of these details. The reaction, they said, when Thomson ordered a photo of Sulzberger added to the collage ranged from discouragement to horror to sheer bafflement.

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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.