Daily Archive: 11/08/2011

Nov 08 2011

Punting the Pundits

“Punting the Pundits” is an Open Thread. It is a selection of editorials and opinions from around the news medium and the internet blogs. The intent is to provide a forum for your reactions and opinions, not just to the opinions presented, but to what ever you find important.

Thanks to ek hornbeck, click on the link and you can access all the past “Punting the Pundits”.

Joseph Stiglitz: The Globalization of Protest

NEW YORK – The protest movement that began in Tunisia in January, subsequently spreading to Egypt, and then to Spain, has now become global, with the protests engulfing Wall Street and cities across America. Globalization and modern technology now enables social movements to transcend borders as rapidly as ideas can. And social protest has found fertile ground everywhere: a sense that the “system” has failed, and the conviction that even in a democracy, the electoral process will not set things right – at least not without strong pressure from the street.

In May, I went to the site of the Tunisian protests; in July, I talked to Spain’s indignados; from there, I went to meet the young Egyptian revolutionaries in Cairo’s Tahrir Square; and, a few weeks ago, I talked with Occupy Wall Street protesters in New York. There is a common theme, expressed by the OWS movement in a simple phrase: “We are the 99%.”

Desmond Tutu and Jody Williams: The Devil in the Tar Sands

CAPE TOWN – On Sunday, November 6, thousands of people encircled the White House as part of the ongoing effort to press US President Barack Obama to stop the Keystone XL pipeline. If the nearly 1,700-mile pipeline were to be built, it would run from the tar sands of Alberta, Canada, through the heartland of the US, all the way to the Texas coast on the Gulf of Mexico. Should the project go ahead, Obama will have made one of the single most disastrous decisions of his presidency concerning climate change and the very future of our planet.

In August, some 1,250 people were arrested in front of the White House while protesting against Keystone. One of them was James Hanson, director of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, who has been studying for decades the impact of fossil fuels on the environment. Hanson argues that the pipeline would sound the death knell for the world’s climate. Oil from the tar sands of Alberta is the dirtiest in the world, and its extraction is already causing problems. If Keystone is built, there will be increased efforts to expand oil production there, making a bad situation much worse.

Russ Baker: Corporate Media Stumped on How to Cover the Occupy Movement

Conventional journalism is increasingly irrelevant in a time of crisis. We find abundant proof in a recent column from the New York Times’ so-called “Public Editor,” who is supposed to somehow magically represent the public interest and rarefied ethical values to the rest of the paper.

In this column, he says the media is having difficulty figuring out how to cover Occupy Wall Street and its offshoots.

   What are the themes? How should The New York Times cover this movement that resembles no other in memory?

Certainly, media organizations are intrinsically better able to cover snapshot moments like official actions and pronouncements than movements or complex and subtly if rapidly evolving situations-like climate change, or Occupy.

John Nichols: Block the Vote: Ohio GOP Bars Early Voting to Suppress Pro-Labor Turnout

TOLEDO – When Mitt Romney’s dad was a candidate for president back in the 1960s, Republicans competed on the strength of their personalities and ideas.

It was the same when Newt Gingrich was an up-and-coming Republican leader in the 1980s and the early 1990s.

But no more?

Republicans have a new strategy for competing in tight elections.

They cheat.

In Ohio this fall, the party faces a serious challenge. Republican Governor John Kasich, a GOP “star” for the better part of three decades, has staked his political fortunes on an attempt to eliminate collective bargaining rights for public employees while undermining the ability of their unions to function.

The move has proven to be massively unpopular. More than 1.3 million Ohioans signed petitions that forced a referendum on whether to implement the anti-labor law. Polls show that Ohioans are ready to do just that when they weigh in on referendum Issue 2.

But Ohio’s Republican secretary of state is trying to make it a whole lot harder for Ohioans to cast those votes.

Jim Hightower: Shouldn’t Americans Repair American Infrastructure?

Listening at last to his inner FDR, President Barack Obama is going straight at the Know-Nothing/Do-Nothing Republicans in Congress.

At a rally in September on a bridge connecting Rep. John Boehner’s state of Ohio to Sen. Mitch McConnell’s state of Kentucky, Obama challenged the two GOP leaders to back his plan for repairing and improving our country’s deteriorating infrastructure.

“Help us rebuild this bridge,” he shouted out to Boehner and McConnell. “Help us rebuild America. Help us put this country back to work.”

Yes, let’s do it!

However, in addition to the usual recalcitrance of reactionary Republican leaders, another impediment stands in the way of success: many of the infrastructure jobs that would be created could end up in China.

Holy Uncle Sam! How is this possible?

Eugene Robinson: The Shame in Happy Valley

Legendary Penn State football coach Joe Paterno said, “I did what I was supposed to.” In fact, nobody at Penn State did what basic human decency requires-and as a result, according to prosecutors, an alleged sexual predator who could have been stopped years ago was allowed to continue molesting young boys.

The arrest Saturday of former Penn State defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky on felony child sex abuse charges, involving at least eight victims, has sent university officials scrambling to justify a pattern of self-serving inattention and inaction.

Nov 08 2011

Keystone XL Followup

(h/t Blue Texan)

Van Jones AWOL at Tarsands Action Once Again, But Calls for Mass Civil Unrest if Obama Approves Keystone XL Pipeline

By: Jane Hamsher, Firedog Lake

Monday November 7, 2011 10:10 am

Van Jones was conspicuously absent when we were getting arrested at the White House that day in September (Overheard in the paddy wagon: “Where’s Van Jones? You think he would want to be here.”) He couldn’t come yesterday either, but he sent along a rather unequivocal condemnation of President Obama for even considering approval of the Keystone XL pipeline,  calling for people to respond with mass civil disobedience if he does.



That affirmation is good to hear.  There shouldn’t have been anything to keep him from lifting a pen and signing onto the October 4 letter from environmental leaders protesting the questionable relationship between Hillary Clinton and other State Department officials with Trans Canada and the process that they are using to determine approval of the pipeline. But 12,500 people is a lot more than 65, and it’s hard for a leading environmentalist to retain any street cred within the community and remain silent on this.



Regardless of whatever political calculus is happening behind the scenes, I was impressed by the unequivocal tone of the Jones’ email.  It can’t sit well with the White House, because the President is clearly looking for a way to approve the pipeline. Calling for mass civil unrest if Obama does so will not only inflame Jones’s rabid right-wing critics (of which he has many), but it may be something he actually has to follow through on.

After Obama threw him under the bus, Van could have done many things.  He chose to join the Center for American Progress, the think-tank whose job it is to slap the “good liberal seal of approval” on decidedly non-progressive things the White House wants to do, like perpetuating the War in Afghanistan.  (CAP recently told Politico that environmentalists will be satisfied if Obama simply punts on the piepline until after the election, because “people who are concerned about this will feel he has been listening to them.”)

And he also recently launched his Rebuild the Dream organization, which clearly hopes to be on the receiving end of the massive Democratic 2012 election money gravy train.  Maybe it just wasn’t flowing fast enough, and this was a warning shot.  But now Van has put himself on the line, and even if Obama does punt, the Keystone XL pipeline will nonetheless continue to be a front-burner election issue with the young people Obama must turn out in 2012 – people with whom Jones has quite a bit of influence.

I just don’t think we live in a world where the oil companies don’t ultimately get their way, and some route for the pipeline isn’t approved. I look forward to participating in civil disobedience with Van Jones to protest construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, regardless of who is residing at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue when it happens.

Nov 08 2011

Occupy Wall St. Livestream: Day 53

Watch live streaming video from globalrevolution at livestream.com

OccupyWallStreet

The resistance continues at Liberty Square, with free pizza 😉

“I don’t know how to fix this but I know it’s wrong.” ~ Unknown Author

Occupy Wall Street NYC now has a web site for its General Assembly  with up dates and information. Very informative and user friendly. It has information about events, a bulletin board, groups and minutes of the GA meetings.

NYC General Assembly #OccupyWallStreet

Occupy Oakland: Scott Campbell describes being shot with a rubber bullet by Oakland police in an unprovoked attack

Scott Campbell, a participant in the Occupy Oakland movement, describes the unprovoked police attack that left him severely wounded. “There was absolutely no warning whatsoever,” says Campbell.

Occupy The Highway: The 99% March to Washington

On November 23rd, the Congressional Deficit Reduction Super-Committee will meet to decide on whether or not to keep Obama’s extension to the Bush tax-cuts – which only benefit the richest 1% of Americans in any kind of significant way. Luckily, a group of OWS’ers are embarking on a two-week march from Liberty Plaza to the Whitehouse to let the committee know what the 99% think about these cuts. Join the march to make sure these tax cuts for the richest 1% of Americans are allowed to die!

More information:

The 20 mile a day/2 week march from Liberty Square to DC is set to leave this Wednesday, November 9 at noon. On Wednesday we’ll be leaving Liberty Square and marching to the New York Waterway/Hudson River Ferry and onward to Elizabeth, NJ. This is our first stop. Everyone is welcome to join this two week march. If you’d like to participate, but can’t commit for two weeks you’re welcome to join us for the day or help send us off!

Nov 08 2011

On this Day In History November 8

This is your morning Open Thread. Pour your favorite beverage and review the past and comment on the future.

Find the past “On This Day in History” here.

November 8 is the 312th day of the year (313th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 53 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1793 the Louvre opens as a public museum. After more than two centuries as a royal palace, the Louvre is opened as a public museum in Paris by the French revolutionary government. Today, the Louvre’s collection is one of the richest in the world, with artwork and artifacts representative of 11,000 years of human civilization and culture.

The Musée du Louvre or officially Grand Louvre – in English the Louvre Museum or simply the Louvre – is one of the world’s largest museums, the most visited art museum in the world and a historic monument. It is a central landmark of Paris and located on the Right Bank of the Seine in the 1st arrondissement (district). Nearly 35,000 objects from prehistory to the 19th century are exhibited over an area of 60,600 square metres (652,300 square feet).

The museum is housed in the Louvre Palace (Palais du Louvre) which began as a fortress built in the late 12th century under Philip II. Remnants of the fortress are still visible. The building was extended many times to form the present Louvre Palace. In 1682, Louis XIV chose the Palace of Versailles for his household, leaving the Louvre primarily as a place to display the royal collection, including, from 1692, a collection of antique sculpture. In 1692, the building was occupied by the Académie des Inscriptions et Belles Lettres and the Académie Royale de Peinture et de Sculpture, which in 1699 held the first of a series of salons. The Académie

remained at the Louvre for 100 years. During the French Revolution, the National Assembly decreed that the Louvre should be used as a museum, to display the nation’s masterpieces.

The museum opened on 10 August 1793 with an exhibition of 537 paintings, the majority of the works being confiscated church and royal property. Because of structural problems with the building, the museum was closed in 1796 until 1801. The size of the collection increased under Napoleon when the museum was renamed the Musée Napoleon. After his defeat at Waterloo, many works seized by Napoleon’s armies were returned to their original owners. The collection was further increased during the reigns of Louis XVIII and Charles X, and during the Second French Empire the museum gained 20,000 pieces. Holdings have grown steadily through donations and gifts since the Third Republic, except during the two World Wars. As of 2008, the collection is divided among eight curatorial departments: Egyptian Antiquities; Near Eastern Antiquities; Greek, Etruscan, and Roman Antiquities; Islamic Art; Sculpture; Decorative Arts; Paintings; Prints and Drawings.

Nov 08 2011

Rearranging the deck chairs

Key Obama Aide Relinquishes Some Duties

By CAROL E. LEE, The Wall Street Journal

NOVEMBER 8, 2011

On Monday, Mr. Daley turned over day-to-day management of the West Wing to Pete Rouse, a veteran aide to President Obama, according to several people familiar with the matter. It is unusual for a White House chief of staff to relinquish part of the job.

A senior White House official who attended Monday’s staff meeting where Mr. Daley made the announcement said that his new role has not yet been fully defined. But in recent weeks, Mr. Daley has focused more on managing relations with influential outsiders.



A former executive at J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. and a Commerce secretary in the Clinton administration, Mr. Daley was widely hailed as a breath of fresh air for a White House seeking to cut deals with emboldened Republicans and repair the administration’s soured relations with business.

Mr. Daley made strides in his outreach to business, including leading a White House effort to ease government regulations and shepherding three free-trade deals through a divided Congress. But the relationship has fallen short of expectations. White House officials acknowledge even an emissary of Mr. Daley’s caliber could go only so far. Mr. Obama’s recent push to boost taxes on wealthy Americans has complicated that effort.

On the congressional front, one big problem has been a tense relationship between Mr. Daley and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D., Nev.), which soured during the budget negotiations this year, people familiar with the matter said. Mr. Daley angered Democrats by trying to cut side budget deals with Republicans. He stoked the tension recently by telling a columnist for the website Politico that “both Democrats and Republicans” have made it difficult for Mr. Obama to govern.

Obama’s Chief of Staff Steps Down Amid Behind-the-Scenes Shitstorm

By Seth Abramovitch, Gawker

Nov 8, 2011 2:49 AM

The “recalibration of Mr. Daley’s portfolio” (the WSJ euphemisms are like poetry!) is designed to “smooth any kinks in the president’s team as it braces for the overlapping demands of governing while campaigning for re-election.”

Example of a “kink”: Remember when Obama announced he’d be unveiling his big jobs plan during a GOP presidential debate, and everyone was thrilled that he was finally showing a spine? And then John Boehner poked his head out of his irradiating clamshell to say, “No fucking way?” And then the president backed down and looked like a total wuss again? Well, Obama read the riot act to his staff, demanding to know how they could have failed to see that conflict coming. All bucks stopped at Daley’s desk – he was the one who said everyone had signed off on that first date.

Nov 08 2011

More “Accountability”

SEC Uses "Because I Said So" Tactic With Judge Rakoff

By Matt Levine, Dealbreaker

07 Nov 2011 at 4:39 PM

The quick background: Citi decided to make a big prop bet against some mortgages, so it structured a synthetic CDO with the exposures it wanted to short and sold it to some dopes, keeping virtually all of the short side of the trade on its books. This was a good idea and Citi made $160mm, but it worked out less well for the dopes. The SEC sued Citi for not telling the dopes certain things, like that it had picked the mortgages involved because of their exceptional badness, and they signed up a $285 million settlement.



(T)hese are very silly words. “Scienter-based violations of the securities laws” just means that GS, unlike Citi, was charged with intentionally stuffing dopes with bad CDOs. True! The SEC charged GS with doing that intentionally, and it only charged Citi with doing the same thing “negligently,” i.e., something a little bit north of “accidentally.” But, like, the SEC just decided to charge it that way – and they don’t explain why. It is sort of unimaginable that anyone could accidentally create a mortgage-backed security filled with loans you know are going to fail so that you can sell it to a client who isn’t aware that you sabotaged it by intentionally picking the misleadingly rated loans most likely to be defaulted upon. Like, you have to pay attention in order to do that. You have to pick the loans, and write stuff down, and tell people about the thing, and convince them to buy the thing. The SEC gamely tries to explain how this could in fact all be due to negligence, but it doesn’t really matter – the point is that GS and Citi did pretty much the same thing, so if it’s negligence for Citi it’s negligence for GS. The only explanation of why Citi gets off easier than GS is “because we chose to let Citi get off easier than GS.”



The real explanation is probably much closer to the one Citi’s lawyers hit upon: that Citi is the all-time league table leader in losing tons of money on CDOs. To a lot of people, Goldman really does look like the evil genius who went heavily net short the housing market and made a ton of money. Citi are just some goofballs who lost a ton of money on a ton of CDOs, and half-accidentally made some money on one CDO. That pattern does sort of make Goldman look like they had a diabolical plan to screw everyone, while Citi’s screwing a few people looks, well, negligent.

It’s just that this is a very bad legal theory. Shorting the housing market to your customers when you have no inside information about particular mortgages, but just did better analysis than them of the macro data, is … it’s kind of unpleasant behavior, maybe, but it’s probably not fraud. Being generally long mortgages but short one particular trade because you’ve secretly cherry-picked it to be the single worst CDO you can conceive of with your somewhat limited imagination, that’s – I mean, that’s stupid, but it’s also a lot closer to actual fraud.

Citigroup, SEC Defend $285 Million CDO Settlement as Fair

By Bob Van Voris and Thom Weidlich, Business Week

November 08, 2011, 12:38 AM EST

Rakoff, who in 2009 rejected a $33 million settlement between the agency and Bank of America Corp., asked Citigroup and the SEC to address nine questions about the proposed settlement. The questions included, “Why should the court impose a judgment in a case in which the SEC alleges a serious securities fraud but the defendant neither admits nor denies wrongdoing?”



The SEC argued that the U.S. Supreme Court has endorsed settlements in which the defendant doesn’t admit liability. If Citigroup had admitted fault in the settlement, that could be used against it by private investors suing the bank, the SEC said.



In its own filing today, Citigroup also said the settlement was fair and asked the judge to consider the impact on its shareholders of “any outcome other than a negotiated ‘no admit, no deny’ settlement.”

Promises Made, and Remade, by Firms in S.E.C. Fraud Cases

By EDWARD WYATT, The New York Times

Published: November 7, 2011

To an outsider, the vow may seem unusual. Citigroup, after all, was merely promising not to do something that the law already forbids. But that is the way the commission usually does business. It also was not the first time the firm was making that promise.

Citigroup’s main brokerage subsidiary, its predecessors or its parent company agreed not to violate the very same antifraud statute in July 2010. And in May 2006. Also as far as back as March 2005 and April 2000.

Citigroup has a lot of company in this regard on Wall Street. According to a New York Times analysis, nearly all of the biggest financial companies – Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, JP Morgan Chase and Bank of America among them – have settled fraud cases by promising that they would never again violate an antifraud law, only to have the S.E.C. conclude they did it again a few years later.

A Times analysis of enforcement actions during the past 15 years found at least 51 cases in which the S.E.C. concluded that Wall Street firms had broken anti-fraud laws they had agreed never to breach. The 51 cases spanned 19 different firms.



Senator Carl Levin, a Michigan Democrat who is chairman of the Senate permanent subcommittee on investigations and has led several inquiries into Wall Street, said the S.E.C.’s method of settling fraud cases, is “a symbol of weak enforcement. It doesn’t do much in the way of deterrence, and it doesn’t do much in the way of punishment, I don’t think.”

Barbara Roper, director of investor protection for the Consumer Federation of America, said, “You can look at the record and see that it clearly suggests this is not deterring repeat offenses. You have to at least raise the question if other alternatives might be more effective.”



But prior violations are plentiful. For example, Bank of America’s securities unit has agreed four times since 2005 not to violate a major antifraud statute, and another four times not to violate a separate law. Merrill Lynch, which Bank of America acquired in 2008, has separately agreed not to violate the same two statutes seven times since 1999.

Of the 19 companies that the Times found by the S.E.C. to be repeat offenders over the last 15 years, 16 declined to comment. They read like a Wall Street who’s who: American International Group, Ameriprise, Bank of America, Bear Stearns, Columbia Management, Deutsche Asset Management, Credit Suisse, Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase, Merrill Lynch, Morgan Stanley, Putnam Investments, Raymond James, RBC Dain Rauscher, UBS and Wells Fargo/Wachovia.



In 2005, Bank of America was one of several companies singled out for allowing professional traders to buy or sell a mutual fund at the previous day’s closing price, when it was clear the next day that the overall market or particular stocks were going to move either up or down sharply, guaranteeing a big short-term gain or avoiding a significant loss.

In its settlement, Bank of America neither admitted nor denied the conduct, but agreed to pay a $125 million fine and to put $250 million into a fund to repay investors. The company also agreed never to violate the major antifraud statutes.

Two years later, in 2007, Bank of America was accused by the S.E.C. of fraud by using its supposedly independent research analysts to bolster its investment banking activities from 1999 to 2001. In the settlement, Bank of America without admitting or denying its guilt, paid a $16 million fine and promised, once again, not to violate the law.

But two years later, in 2009, the S.E.C. again accused Bank of America of defrauding investors, saying that in 2007-8, the bank sold $4.5 billion of highly risky auction-rate securities by promising buyers that they were as safe as money market funds. They weren’t, and this time Bank of America agreed to be “permanently enjoined” from violating the same section of the law it had previously agreed not to break.

In fact, the company had already violated that promise, according to the S.E.C when it was accused last year of rigging bids in the municipal securities market from 1998 through 2002. To settle the charges, Bank of America paid no penalty, but refunded investors $25 million in profits plus $11 million in interest. And, the bank promised again never to violate the same law.

Nov 08 2011

More “Acountability”

SEC Uses "Because I Said So" Tactic With Judge Rakoff

By Matt Levine, Dealbreaker

07 Nov 2011 at 4:39 PM

The quick background: Citi decided to make a big prop bet against some mortgages, so it structured a synthetic CDO with the exposures it wanted to short and sold it to some dopes, keeping virtually all of the short side of the trade on its books. This was a good idea and Citi made $160mm, but it worked out less well for the dopes. The SEC sued Citi for not telling the dopes certain things, like that it had picked the mortgages involved because of their exceptional badness, and they signed up a $285 million settlement.



(T)hese are very silly words. “Scienter-based violations of the securities laws” just means that GS, unlike Citi, was charged with intentionally stuffing dopes with bad CDOs. True! The SEC charged GS with doing that intentionally, and it only charged Citi with doing the same thing “negligently,” i.e., something a little bit north of “accidentally.” But, like, the SEC just decided to charge it that way – and they don’t explain why. It is sort of unimaginable that anyone could accidentally create a mortgage-backed security filled with loans you know are going to fail so that you can sell it to a client who isn’t aware that you sabotaged it by intentionally picking the misleadingly rated loans most likely to be defaulted upon. Like, you have to pay attention in order to do that. You have to pick the loans, and write stuff down, and tell people about the thing, and convince them to buy the thing. The SEC gamely tries to explain how this could in fact all be due to negligence, but it doesn’t really matter – the point is that GS and Citi did pretty much the same thing, so if it’s negligence for Citi it’s negligence for GS. The only explanation of why Citi gets off easier than GS is “because we chose to let Citi get off easier than GS.”



The real explanation is probably much closer to the one Citi’s lawyers hit upon: that Citi is the all-time league table leader in losing tons of money on CDOs. To a lot of people, Goldman really does look like the evil genius who went heavily net short the housing market and made a ton of money. Citi are just some goofballs who lost a ton of money on a ton of CDOs, and half-accidentally made some money on one CDO. That pattern does sort of make Goldman look like they had a diabolical plan to screw everyone, while Citi’s screwing a few people looks, well, negligent.

It’s just that this is a very bad legal theory. Shorting the housing market to your customers when you have no inside information about particular mortgages, but just did better analysis than them of the macro data, is … it’s kind of unpleasant behavior, maybe, but it’s probably not fraud. Being generally long mortgages but short one particular trade because you’ve secretly cherry-picked it to be the single worst CDO you can conceive of with your somewhat limited imagination, that’s – I mean, that’s stupid, but it’s also a lot closer to actual fraud.

Citigroup, SEC Defend $285 Million CDO Settlement as Fair

By Bob Van Voris and Thom Weidlich, Business Week

November 08, 2011, 12:38 AM EST

Rakoff, who in 2009 rejected a $33 million settlement between the agency and Bank of America Corp., asked Citigroup and the SEC to address nine questions about the proposed settlement. The questions included, “Why should the court impose a judgment in a case in which the SEC alleges a serious securities fraud but the defendant neither admits nor denies wrongdoing?”



The SEC argued that the U.S. Supreme Court has endorsed settlements in which the defendant doesn’t admit liability. If Citigroup had admitted fault in the settlement, that could be used against it by private investors suing the bank, the SEC said.



In its own filing today, Citigroup also said the settlement was fair and asked the judge to consider the impact on its shareholders of “any outcome other than a negotiated ‘no admit, no deny’ settlement.”

Promises Made, and Remade, by Firms in S.E.C. Fraud Cases

By EDWARD WYATT, The New York Times

Published: November 7, 2011

To an outsider, the vow may seem unusual. Citigroup, after all, was merely promising not to do something that the law already forbids. But that is the way the commission usually does business. It also was not the first time the firm was making that promise.

Citigroup’s main brokerage subsidiary, its predecessors or its parent company agreed not to violate the very same antifraud statute in July 2010. And in May 2006. Also as far as back as March 2005 and April 2000.

Citigroup has a lot of company in this regard on Wall Street. According to a New York Times analysis, nearly all of the biggest financial companies – Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, JP Morgan Chase and Bank of America among them – have settled fraud cases by promising that they would never again violate an antifraud law, only to have the S.E.C. conclude they did it again a few years later.

A Times analysis of enforcement actions during the past 15 years found at least 51 cases in which the S.E.C. concluded that Wall Street firms had broken anti-fraud laws they had agreed never to breach. The 51 cases spanned 19 different firms.



Senator Carl Levin, a Michigan Democrat who is chairman of the Senate permanent subcommittee on investigations and has led several inquiries into Wall Street, said the S.E.C.’s method of settling fraud cases, is “a symbol of weak enforcement. It doesn’t do much in the way of deterrence, and it doesn’t do much in the way of punishment, I don’t think.”

Barbara Roper, director of investor protection for the Consumer Federation of America, said, “You can look at the record and see that it clearly suggests this is not deterring repeat offenses. You have to at least raise the question if other alternatives might be more effective.”



But prior violations are plentiful. For example, Bank of America’s securities unit has agreed four times since 2005 not to violate a major antifraud statute, and another four times not to violate a separate law. Merrill Lynch, which Bank of America acquired in 2008, has separately agreed not to violate the same two statutes seven times since 1999.

Of the 19 companies that the Times found by the S.E.C. to be repeat offenders over the last 15 years, 16 declined to comment. They read like a Wall Street who’s who: American International Group, Ameriprise, Bank of America, Bear Stearns, Columbia Management, Deutsche Asset Management, Credit Suisse, Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase, Merrill Lynch, Morgan Stanley, Putnam Investments, Raymond James, RBC Dain Rauscher, UBS and Wells Fargo/Wachovia.



In 2005, Bank of America was one of several companies singled out for allowing professional traders to buy or sell a mutual fund at the previous day’s closing price, when it was clear the next day that the overall market or particular stocks were going to move either up or down sharply, guaranteeing a big short-term gain or avoiding a significant loss.

In its settlement, Bank of America neither admitted nor denied the conduct, but agreed to pay a $125 million fine and to put $250 million into a fund to repay investors. The company also agreed never to violate the major antifraud statutes.

Two years later, in 2007, Bank of America was accused by the S.E.C. of fraud by using its supposedly independent research analysts to bolster its investment banking activities from 1999 to 2001. In the settlement, Bank of America without admitting or denying its guilt, paid a $16 million fine and promised, once again, not to violate the law.

But two years later, in 2009, the S.E.C. again accused Bank of America of defrauding investors, saying that in 2007-8, the bank sold $4.5 billion of highly risky auction-rate securities by promising buyers that they were as safe as money market funds. They weren’t, and this time Bank of America agreed to be “permanently enjoined” from violating the same section of the law it had previously agreed not to break.

In fact, the company had already violated that promise, according to the S.E.C when it was accused last year of rigging bids in the municipal securities market from 1998 through 2002. To settle the charges, Bank of America paid no penalty, but refunded investors $25 million in profits plus $11 million in interest. And, the bank promised again never to violate the same law.