SEC Watchdog To Probe Politics Of Goldman Settlement

Jul 23 2010 | 12:02pm ET

It’s been approved by both the Securities and Exchange Commission and a federal judge, but Goldman Sachs’ $550 million settlement is getting a little more scrutiny from the SEC’s inspector general.

H. David Kotz, who has not been shy about rapping the SEC for its failures, will look into whether political considerations played a role in the timing of the Goldman deal, which ended the SEC’s probe of whether the investment bank defrauded investors in a collateralized debt obligation allegedly structured and marketed on behalf of hedge fund Paulson & Co.  The inspector general had already been looking into whether politics colored the SEC’s lawsuit against Goldman.

Once again, Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) is the man behind the expanded probe. Issa pushed Kotz to begin the investigation in April, believing that the SEC’s actions may have been made to bolster Democrats’ case in favor of Wall Street reform. So it’s no surprise that Issa sees something fishy in the fact that the SEC settlement came just two hours after that reform bill was passed by the Senate and sent to President Barack Obama’s desk.

“The commission must seek to avoid even the appearance of applying political considerations or self-serving grandstanding,” Issa wrote.

SEC Chairman Mary Schapiro has denied there were any political motives for either its decision to sue Goldman or its decision to settle. However, there was a partisan divide: The SEC’s two Republican commissioners voted against both the lawsuit and the settlement.

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