The financial markets have now reached the level of high comedy. There is now officially no one you can trust out there.
Today, the AP is reporting that federal prosecutors and the FBI are currently investigating possible illegal insider trading by two Securities and Exchange Commission enforcement attorneys. The Securities and Exchange Commission is the federal government agency entrusted with regulating stocks, bonds and other securities that are sold to the public.
Because of the SEC’s role as the regulatory agency that oversees the securities markets, SEC employees often are privy to financial information that has not yet hit the public. It is illegal to engage in buying and selling stocks based on information that has not been released to the public. Allowing trading based on nonpublic information would give insiders an unfair advantage over the rest of us.
Apparently, the two SEC attorneys raised the suspicion of the Feds because of the frequency of stock trades they made over the last two years. One attorney reportedly made 247 trades over the last two years.
The pair also may have shared nonpublic insider information with family members regarding businesses that they were in charge of overseeing, using their SEC email accounts. In other words, these two are not only corrupt, they are not terribly bright. (Word to the wise: If you’re going to commit a crime, DON’T USE YOUR WORK EMAIL!)
SEC lawyers make over $150,000 a year, which is enough to keep most people honest. However, given that they oversee billions of dollars in securities, the temptation to create their own massive stock portfolios may have just been too great for these two.
Hopefully, this is an isolated incident. Basically, if the SEC starts engaging in corruption on a large scale, the public will have very little reason to trust the country’s financial markets. The SEC already was blind to the Bernie Madoff scandal, and the numerous other frauds that occurred over the last year as the markets collapsed. But we assumed that the SEC was just incompetent. Now, we have reason to believe that the SEC is deceitful on top of being blind.
Moral of the story: For now, put your money under your mattress and guard it with a shotgun. If you invest it, you’re likely dealing with crooks being watched over by more crooks.