Two years after the financial crisis shook the U.S. banking system, government prosecutors have yet to put any highly-paid executives behind bars for their role in the mayhem at Lehman Brothers, Bear Stearns, AIG, or Fannie Mae.
The New York Times’ White Collar Watch suggests one reason why is the U.S. Supreme Court ruling earlier this year in the case of Jeff Skilling, the disgraced former chief of Enron, which collapsed amid accounting fraud. That high court ruling narrowed the so-called “theft of honest services” provision in criminal fraud law to only cases involving bribes and kickbacks. That means the government can no longer use the provision to prosecute an executive for self-dealing or other conduct that hurt his company, unless he directly profited from it.
It always comes down to money
Some of the scores of rulemakings and studies required by the Dodd-Frank reform law could be delayed because of the annual Congressional fight over funding the federal government. Requested budget increases for financial regulators were not included in a stopgap spending bill to fund the government through early December, according to a recent Reuters report.
The SEC was expecting an 18 percent budget boost to help pay for extra staff, and the CFTC wants a 50 percent increase so it can hire 200 new employees and upgrade market-monitoring technology. Congress is expected to revisit the annual government spending bills after the Nov. 2 election. Meanwhile, the government’s new fiscal 2011 budget year began last week on Oct. 1.
Why not start your own hedge fund?
The financial reform law gives the SEC the power to take a closer look at hedge funds, those secretive investment vehicles run by some of Wall Street’s best and brightest. A tongue-in-cheek article by Vanity Fair offers 7 simple steps for ordinary folks who want to start their own rogue finance shop, ahem, hedge fund.
Here’s Step 2, naming your fund:
Let’s face it: aggressive, testosterone-redolent names (e.g., Hungry Wolf Capital, Thor Hammer Fund, Tomahawk Capital Management) are as passé as Meatpacking District mega-restaurants and conspicuous luxury boxes at the stadium. Come off as attuned to the times with something gentle and/or arboreal (e.g., Sassafras Group, Bending Birch Asset Management, Larchwood Partners). Actual big-shot hedge-fund manager’s tip: “The goal is to project sturdiness without rapaciousness. You don’t want to be Three-Headed-Dog-Guarding-the-Gates-of-Hades Capital. And you don’t want to use your own name. Typically, guys use streets and towns from their childhoods. Or a tree, to convey strength and deep roots.”