Is it Time to Get Close and Personal with the SEC?
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Friday, June 25, 2004

Is it Time to Get Close and Personal with the SEC?

It may be time to book that ticket to Washington, D.C., pick up that phone, or send that email. The SEC says that not a single mutual fund firm has voluntarily come to them to discuss their potential or current problems, reports Deborah Salomon of the Wall Street Journal in a Friday article.

The agency maintains that it has broadcast a message loud and clear to the financial services community -- those that come clean voluntarily will be treated more leniently.

Stephen Cutler, the SEC's enforcement director, said in a speech last fall that if the SEC uncovers problems without the aid of a firm, "I assure you that the consequences will be worse," reported Salomon.

Brokerage firms heeded that message -- many self-reported problems to the agency after that speech, reported Salomon.

Is the fund industry too busy (privately) dealing with its current problems? One SEC director thinks so: "[f]ixing yesterday's problems is good, but if you haven't thought about catching tomorrow's problem you're just going to go from blowup to blowup," the Journal reported Linda Thomsen, deputy director of enforcement, as saying.

"We want them to be thinking: Do they have conflicts with clients that are affecting their decisions," she added.

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