Brown to SEC: No perks for bad banks

Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) wants the Securities and Exchange Commission to kill special exemptions for banks that have been found guilty of wrongdoing.

In a letter to SEC Chairwoman Mary Jo White, Brown argued that the SEC’s practice of providing exemptions from some securities laws should be inaccessible to any financial institutions that are subject to civil or criminal settlements or enforcement actions. He argued that revoking those privileges would provide another incentive for banks to adhere to laws.

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“Removing privileges enjoyed by large firms will promote better behavior, increase accountability, and demonstrate to the financial markets that certain firms do not enjoy special treatment by virtue of their size,” he wrote.

Brown previously pressed White on the exemption issue when she appeared before the Senate Banking Committee as the president’s nominee to head the agency. White told Brown at the time that she would examine the issue, but Brown said he's tired of the lack of action.

“The SEC’s policy appears to make waivers the rule rather than the exception,” he wrote. “I hope that the SEC will reconsider and revise a process that has now been questioned by the public, lawmakers, and a sitting SEC Commissioner.”

Brown said that it appears the SEC is steering clear of revoking privileges for large banks, noting that three large institutions have faced a total of 27 fraud cases and still received 86 different waivers. Only one had any privileges revoked.

Brown also noted that one foreign bank, Credit Suisse, received two waivers the same day it entered into a plea agreement over criminal charges it conspired to commit tax fraud. The Swiss bank agreed in May to plead guilty to helping wealthy Americans avoid U.S. taxes and pay a $2.6 billion penalty.

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