The Gloves Are Off

Posted: February 19, 2009 in Economy
Tags: , , , ,

There’s a new sheriff in town at the SEC.

WASHINGTON (AP) – The Securities and Exchange Commission on Thursday named a former federal prosecutor as its new enforcement chief to lead the embattled agency’s drive to strengthen its pursuit of financial fraud.

Robert Khuzami has been a top legal official on Wall Street at investment firm Deutsche Bank since 2004. Before that he worked for 11 years in the U.S. attorney’s office in Manhattan and prosecuted insider trading cases, Ponzi schemes and other financial crimes.

Khuzami, 52, replaces Linda Thomsen, the SEC enforcement director since May 2005. Her departure was announced last week.

Thomsen became a lightning rod for criticism over the SEC’s failure to detect the $50 billion Ponzi scheme allegedly run by money manager Bernard Madoff, despite red flags raised to the agency staff by outsiders over the course of a decade.

The naming of Khuzami by new SEC Chairman Mary Schapiro came two days after the agency accused Texas billionaire R. Allen Stanford in a civil lawsuit of a “massive” $8 billion fraud that lured investors with sham promises of double-digit returns on certificates of deposit.

Besides leading several major financial fraud cases, Khuzami also prosecuted the “Blind Sheik” Omar Ahmed Ali Abdel Rahman in what was then the largest terrorism trial in U.S. history following the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center in New York. Ten defendants were convicted of operating a terrorist organization responsible for the bombing, the assassination of Jewish Defense League founder Meir Kahane, and planning bomb attacks on law enforcement and other high-profile targets.

Other than Patrick Fitzgerald, I can’t think of another prosecutor who would scare me more if I were under investigation.

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