Wow, guess Hank Paulson and Ben Bernanke won’t be spending Christmas at Christopher Cox’s party tonight? The outgoing SEC chief, whose agency was under extreme fire since well before the Bernie Madoff affair, used an interview with the Washington Post to defend his reputation and lay some blame on the other guys. It’s not subtle:
“What we have done in this current turmoil is stay calm, which has been our greatest contribution — not being impulsive, not changing the rules willy-nilly, but going through a very professional and orderly process that takes into account unintended consequences and gives ample notice to market participants,” Cox said. This caution, he added, “has really been a signal achievement for the SEC.”
Taking a swipe at the shifting response of the Treasury and Fed in addressing the financial crisis, he said: “When these gale-force winds hit our markets, there were panicked cries to change any and every rule of the marketplace: ‘Let’s try this. Let’s try that.’ What was needed was a steady hand.“
Cox said the biggest mistake of his tenure was agreeing in September to an extraordinary three-week ban on short selling of financial company stocks. But in publicly acknowledging for the first time that this ban was not productive, Cox said he had been under intense pressure from Treasury Secretary Henry M. Paulson Jr. and Fed Chairman Ben S. Bernanke to take this action and did so reluctantly. They “were of the view that if we did not act and act at that instant, these financial institutions could fail as a result and there would be nothing left to save,” Cox said.
It sounds like the Presidential transition couldn’t happen soon enough. Talk about a poisonous atmosphere, especially once you throw Sheila Bair and the yahoos at the Office of Thrift Supervision into the mix. We feel sorry for Ben Bernanke that he doesn’t get to take off anytime soon.