[A]s such, please, I am no apologist for Goldman. Moreover, no one should attempt to minimize the loathsome nature of the charged conduct. All of which leaves me shocked as I read the defenses of the Goldman settlement now emerging from a number of Wall Street pundits -- many of them who would normally be seen as liberal in their political outlook. While I can understand that the right might attack what it would view as anti-business aspects of the case, I'm puzzled as to why some on the left have flocked to the SEC's defense. . .
Am I missing something? The admission of a "mistake" by Goldman Sachs is a major coup for the SEC? Let's forget, for the moment, that I'm a three decade veteran of Wall Street regulation -- both as a former attorney with two regulatory organizations and as a private practitioner representing both defrauded investors and industry clients. Put aside the legalese of this issue. Who among you actually believes that in admitting to a "mistake" that Goldman admitted to fraud?
One of the burdens of getting older is that what some call "history" is simply your recollection of events in your life. It's not a stale memory proscribed by the four corners of a yellowed, fragile newspaper or now quaint black-and-white photos. It's different than that. You were there. You saw it unfold. It's part of the fabric of your life.
Perhaps those who now describe the word "mistake" as some heroic admission are a tad too young to recall another time, when another high-profile story filled the news. Once upon a time, there was this former, disgraced American President: Richard Nixon. He would not admit that his role in the Watergate affair was more than a mere "mistake." That far but no further. He did not commit a crime. He did not defraud the American public.
Clearly, in the passage of some four decades, standards have changed -- legal, regulatory, and, sadly, journalistic. There was a time when admitting to a mistake wasn't enough. It was a mealy-mouthed equivocation. It was an evasion intent on drawing the line short of fraud or criminality. Today, if you believe some reporters and bloggers, that same word grants the SEC a huge victory.
Alas, as I said, the burdens of aging. . .
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