President Bush Nominates Two Dems To SEC (Angers One Former Fan)

President Bush is expected to nominate two Democrats to the fill empty seats on the SEC panel.

Elisse Walter, former deputy director of the SEC’s corporation finance division, and Luis Aguilar, a former SEC lawyer, will be nominated for the vacant positions, the White House said in a statement. Both are Democrats.

By law, no more than three commissioners can be of the same political party as the president.

The worst part is this: the two Dems were recommended to Bush by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada in November. Harry Reid, of the scammy real estate deals. The “we are lost in Iraq” rhetoric. I just do not trust Democrats – or at least the current crop of Democrat leaders – in positions of authority. War and money are adult issues.

With these Dems seated now, as the markets are all over the place, I see a lot more regulation in the future; mission statements that include allowing shareholders to vote on executive compensation and new crackdowns on backdating stock options (which is quite legal at the moment if it’s done correctly.) I just see bad things happening at a time when we need more freedom. We need to worry less about disclosure and let executives do their damn jobs.

Of course, from where I stand, I think the SEC should be eliminated altogether (and all white collar/anti-trust laws repealed). But that’s unlikely to happen so, instead, all I can do is bitch about it. And promise to shake my fist at President Bush next time I see him.

Blogging Skilling

Remember the kerfuffle caused in the middle of the 2004 election when CBS ran a story about the un-verified documents regarding President Bush’s Texas Air National Guard service? The right-wing blogosphere was immediately on mission to investigate and ultimately discredit the documents. The scandal ended with the firing of Mary Mapes, one of the show’s producers, and Dan Rather forced to apologize on the air for running the story.

Though Jeff Skilling’s supplemental brief hasn’t had the same impact (yet), I sense that this story, like TANG, is one that the blogs will own forever more. When the supplemental brief came out on March 14, there was nary a whisper from the New York Times, USAToday, or the LATimes. The Washington Post had a one sentence reference to it at the end of a Nacchio reversal article. The Wall Street Journal printed one story forty-eight hours after the blogs had already been all over it.

If we were discussing, I don’t know, space ship sightings or some local celebrity’s unexpected pregnancy, I could see how it might get overlooked by the big papers. But this is a critical story that is still having fallout today. It impacts business, and a lot of law.

It appears that the story is of interest to other bloggers as well as myself.  The fact that its not even on the radar of the big papers is fine with me. It will be when Skilling’s conviction is overturned.  Then suddenly the big east coast dailies will have to scurry to catch up.  And again, the mainstream media will have to eat crow when they realize they’ve been scooped by the blawgs.

Girl's Dying Wish Denied

This story will simultaneously break your heart and make you mad.

Ten year old Jayci is dying of brain cancer. She wants desperately to see her father, who is in federal prison, convicted five years ago on methamphetamine charges. He is scheduled to be released next year.

“We’ve never asked them to release him early. Never asked them to change anything. We’ve asked them to just give him some time to be here,” Vonda Yaeger said.

Jayci Yaeger has been allowed three escorted visits with her father, but each trip lasts only a couple of hours and costs the family hundreds of dollars. Requests for longer furloughs have been denied.

“They say it doesn’t constitute an extraordinary circumstance,” Vonda Yaeger said.

[Irrelevant cut.]

The Federal Bureau of Prisons Web site states its policy — that furloughs can be allowed for a family crisis and that decision is left to the warden.

“We’ve asked them numerous times, ‘What is an extraordinary circumstance?'” said Vonda Yaeger. “They danced around it. They don’t give you a direct answer.”

Jayci still gets calls when her father can manage.

“He talks to her. We put the phone to her ear and she cries,” Vonda Yaeger said.

She said there have been several times she didn’t think Jayci would make it through the night, but she somehow keeps fighting.

“I feel she’s hanging on for her dad,” Vonda Yaeger said.

The family said that what makes the situation even more difficult is that Jason Yaeger is scheduled to be transferred to a half-way house in Council Bluffs, Iowa, in August. That would make it possible to visit Jayci, but her mother said it will probably be too late.

It seems like the right thing to do is obvious – but what I keep getting hung on is the idea that prison is punishment. But how much punishment is enough? The man is in prison on drug charges, and its true we can not know the damage he’s done with his drug-use/manufacture/sales. What we can know is that he will get out of prison, and thus he is franchised into society. If the prison doesn’t allow him out for this, he will resent them, and possibly the world, forever more.

I still believe drug crimes should be prosecuted. But I also believe that our justice system should be fair. Punish who you must, support who you can. Based on the scant information we are given in this article, I believe this is a case for the latter.

Two Weeks

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More Skilling Prosecutorial Abuse Fallout

Larry Ribstein has written a great article asking what should be the penalty for the sort of prosecutorial misconduct indicated by the Skilling brief?

While the law professor has some insightful comments throughout, the first paragraph particularly interested me. Ribstein says:

My sources tell me that the prosecutors probably have immunity. The argument for strong government immunity is that government agents, who don’t reap economic gains from their conduct, will be excessively risk averse. But what if there are great potential political and economic rewards from successful white collar crime prosecutions?

That’s something I’ve been mulling with my own sources. And the only conclusion I can come up with is, everyone has some skin in the game. You can’t be completely free of influence as a prosecutor. Some former Boy Scout wears a flag in his lapel and voila! Instant credibility! With all the government advantages, the possibility of reward for successful prosecution is too distinct a possibility.

Ribstein:

Keep in mind that Skilling was not prosecuted for stealing from his firm, but rather for lying. Moreover, there is far more robust market discipline for this kind of conduct than for prosecutors’ lying to courts.

If you’ll forgive the tangent, Skilling was convicted of a slew of crimes (lying to auditors, conspiracy, fraud) but not benefiting from those crimes. He was aquitted of all but one count of insider trading. The one insider trading conviction was for the sale of 500,000 shares of ENE on September 17, 2001. A full month after he had left the company – and as proven in court (but the jury didn’t understand) he was creating a ‘bull hedge’ with that sale. In any case, the jury said he was guilty of doing the crime but not actually doing it for any reason. This is one of the crazy things about the trial, and something that proves to me that the jury simply did not understand either the charges or what Skilling was actually doing. Their ignorance was yet another advantage for the prosecutors.

Of course, when Skilling is released, there will be no mea culpa from the gov. They will not apologize or even acknowledge the pain caused not only to Skilling but his entire family – and the Ken Lay family.

Coyote Blog also has some words on the subject of prosecutorial abuse.

Do You Worry About The FBI Spying On You?

CNN has a survey on the front page titled “Do You Worry The FBI Is Spying On You?”  As of 2:47 EST, the results are:

Yes   25%
No    75%
A full quarter of people who visit CNN are worried they have something the federal government wants?  This is fascinating to me.  What could it be that you have?  Knowledge of terrorist activity?  Big drug shipments?   What?  
Trying to talk people out of paranoia will never work.  And who knows, maybe 25% of the people who read CNN really are suspects in some sort of federal issue being pursued by the gov.   Maybe to help our intelligence and law enforcement agencies “connect the dots”, CNN should voluntarily hand over all metrics on who visits their website.  

Go! Flourish! Litigate!

It just occurred to me that the common denominator in all the sex scandals we ever know about is this: they involve attorneys. 

Listen up, you LSAT folk.  For the love of all that is holy, do NOT go to Washington, DC after you get your nifty bar card.  It will only bring you hookers, wealth, fame, trophy wives and the meaningless, barren existence of a 12p-4p work schedule.

Instead, young barrister, go forth and litigate.  You will end up just as soulless and dead inside, but at least you won’t have your face splashed under a Page Six headline with the word “BUSTED!” in 26-point font.

And in America, that’s what we call Success.

The Spitzer Apology

I’ve read and listened to Spitzer’s apology a few times and I notice how he utterly avoids the subject of which he is apologizing.  I never thought I would use Bill Clinton as a standard of morality and honestly, but I am reminded of his “I did not have sex with that woman”/ “I did have an inappropriate relationship with that woman” comments.  In retrospect, I give him credit for actually saying the words.  He wasn’t explicit (and didn’t have to be). But he got the point across that he actually knew what he was apologizing for.  With Spitzer, he could be apologizing for anything.  Someone with no knowledge of the case would wonder what the heck he was actually looking so glum about.

I have been given much: the love of my family, the faith and trust of the people of New York and the chance to lead this state. I am deeply sorry that I did not live up to what was expected of me.

“Over the course of my public life, I have insisted — I believe correctly — that people regardless of their position or power take responsibility for their conduct,” he said. “I can and will ask no less of myself. For this reason, I am resigning from the office of governor.”

Wow, I have something in common with Spitzer. I too believe that people in positions of power (or not, for that matter) accept responsibility for their conduct. Hugh Grant, in the same situation back when he mattered, actually said, “I have done something totally insane.” But Spitzer could be apologizing for breaking a vase. I long to hear him say something like, “I realize I am a creep. I am a john. I paid for sex.” That sort of confessionary apology at least shows some self awareness that this was more than a mere indiscretion. It violated the very laws he vowed to uphold. He’s a dirty cop, and nobody is getting to that. Everyone is so gaga over the discover of “Kristen’s” identity, and fretting over his political future (not even the title Dogcatcher will ever grace his CV) to realize that he has done something truly egregious.

Putting aside the victimization of Kristen, and even the people of New York, have you seen the pictures of Silda Spitzer? She looks like she’s aged in just two days. Her eyes are puffy. Who can even imagine what they had to tell their children?

The cavalier attitude that it was a private matter is just wrong. As a public person, and the highest law enforcement officer of the state of New York, he owed everyone more than this. He failed as a politician, a husband, a father, and now even as a disgraced politican. He couldn’t even get the damn apology right.

Strategic Tattoo Placement

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Dear Jeff Skilling, I Left Sean Berkowitz For You

Dear Jeff Skilling,

Just last night I said my goodbyes to Sean Berkowitz so we could be together.  It was difficult – these sorts of arrangements always are – but in the end we both decided that he was too much of a pussy for me.  I need a real man.  A man who can challenge me and excite me – a man like you.

Oh Jeff, our road will not be easy.  What with the constant lawsuits, both civil and criminal, that will plague us for many years, we must learn to be strong.  Actually I must learn to be strong; you have already shown your tensile.  Much like Bethany McLean clung to Sean Berkowitz during the trial, writing whatever the prosecution wanted her to write, I shall happily be your one-woman PR campaign.  I will derive satisfaction from pointing out that when you said you just don’t get it to the people who didn’t get it, you weren’t trying to be ironic.  I shall rejoice in defending your business judgements that brought such scorn from Berkowitz and the other no-get-nicks.   Oh yes I will be your Bethany McLean, only much prettier, and with a better grasp of the facts.  And I will not talk like a baby when cameras get in my face.  Come to think of it, darling Jeffy, I think that maybe Berkowitz eventually fell in love with her because she sounds so juvenile.   He needs to feel big by making everyone around him a spongy-headed bobble-doll.  Such as McLean.  I guess after being so involved with me, he tried to find my exact opposite, and succeeded.

He meant nothing to me.  Believe me, darling, nothing.  Once I saw you redirect him from the bad side of the witness stand, I knew that you were the man for me.   Even with your fate hanging in the balance, you were the CEO: commanding, confident, and sure of your rightness.  Berkowitz, according to court documents, asked for a moment to double check his file.  In truth, he was trying to discreetly re-attach his balls.

I could never love a man like that.  I can’t even respect him.  Please, let’s put this ugliness behind us and start anew.

I eagerly await your  return.

Love and Kisses,

Cara A. Ellison

(To see my breakup letter to Sean Berkowitz, click here.)

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