04 February 2010

Bank Of America to Pay $150 Million Fine to Settle SEC Case

Breaking news...

Bank of America has agreed to pay a $150 million fine to settle a case with the SEC that it failed to disclose bonuses and other relevant information regarding the acquisition of Merrill Lynch.

Apparently there will be charges under the Martin Act against Mr. Ken Lewis, compliments of Mr. Andrew Cuomo.

The Martin Act, New York General Business Law article 23-A, sections 352-353, is a 1921 piece of legislation in New York that gives extraordinary powers and discretion to an attorney general fighting financial fraud. People called in for questioning during Martin Act investigations do not have a right to counsel or a right against self-incrimination. The act's powers exceed those given any regulator in any other U.S. state.

With a couple of his lieutenants, Mr. Blankfein could cover that bank fine suggested by the SEC with out of pocket money. But some banks are more equal than others, and GS would probably not condescend to subject itself to an SEC inquiry in the first place.

Mr. Lewis is an outsider, a non-NY banker. He could be food for the wolves, or the career of an ambitious AG.

If the Martin Act carries such power to safeguard the system, as Senator Bob Corker referenced yesterday in his critique of the Volker Rule, why don't they use it to probe the AIG scandal?