Matt Taibbi on November 29th: Federal Judge Pimp-Slaps the SEC Over Citigroup Settlement

POSTED: November 29, 10:10 AM ET

Federal Judge Pimp-Slaps the SEC Over Citigroup Settlement

Chris Goodney/Bloomberg via Getty Images/Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Greetings, folks. Hope everyone had a good Thanksgiving…

Just a quick update on a big piece of news that came through yesterday. In one of the more severe judicial ass-whippings you’ll ever see, federal Judge Jed Rakoff rejected a slap-on-the-wrist fraud settlement the SEC had cooked up for Citigroup.

wrote about this story a few weeks back when Rakoff sent signals that he was unhappy with the SEC’s dirty deal with Citi, but yesterday he took this story several steps further.

Rakoff’s 15-page final ruling read like a political document, serving not just as a rejection of this one deal but as a broad and unequivocal indictment of the regulatory system as a whole. He particularly targeted the SEC’s longstanding practice of greenlighting relatively minor fines and financial settlements alongside de facto waivers of civil liability for the guilty – banks commit fraud and pay small fines, but in the end the SEC allows them to walk away without admitting to criminal wrongdoing.

This practice is a legal absurdity for several reasons. By accepting hundred-million-dollar fines without a full public venting of the facts, the SEC is leveling seemingly significant punishments without telling the public what the defendant is being punished for. This has essentially created a parallel or secret criminal justice system, in which both crime and punishment are adjudicated behind closed doors.

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