Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Arthur Levitt's SEC

Ex-Securities and Exchange Commission Chair Arthur Levitt defended his agency relative to the $50 billion Bernie Madoff Ponzi scheme. NYT Dealbook reported:

“At this point, I don’t see any evidence that the S.E.C. dropped the ball,” Mr Levitt, now an adviser to Carlyle Group, told the newspaper. Mr. Levitt was known for his investor-friendly administration at the regulator.

Harry Markopolos shared his concerns with the SEC in 1999. What did Arthur's SEC do? Anything? What about the SIPC? Who reviewed Madoff's auditors, sworn to uphold the public trust?

Did the SEC drop the ball elsewhere? They failed with backdated stock options. It took a college professor to find the widespread illegal scheme maximizing CEO compensation. Cheating occurred in 30% of stock options studied. The SEC slapped a few hands for robbing shareholders. Most executives got off Scott free. Ask Apple's Steven Jobs.

Mr. Levitt is a Senior Adviser of The Carlyle Group. I have some Harry Markopolos like questions regarding one of their affiliates, LifeCare Hospitals.

LifeCare lost 24 patients in Hurricane Katrina, the largest death toll in any Gulf Coast hospital. Carlyle purchased the company two weeks before landfall. Yet, LifeCare's two dozen deaths warranted not one mention in the White House Lessons Learned report. Why not?

Frances Townsend, White House Homeland Security adviser, jumped on a plane to Saudi Arabia while New Orleans sat in toxic gumbo. When she returned, Fran crafted the investigative report. What else did she leave out?

LifeCare rented a floor in Memorial Medical Center. Memorial lost 10 patients. MMC was owned by for-profit Tenet Health. While HCA chartered medical helicopters to evacuate patients from dead hospitals, Tenet and LifeCare let staff and patients swelter in a stinking death house. None of that was mentioned.

There are odd coincidences. George W. Bush served on the board of Carlyle affiliate, CaterAir in the 1990's. Carlyle's corporate office is just down Pennsylvania Avenue from the White House, 1001 vs. 1600. A year after the White House released their "ro"-less bust of an investigative report, Tenet Health appointed Jeb Bush to their Board of Directors, at significant annual compensation.

"At this point I don't see any evidence where LifeCare or Tenet dropped the ball."

If it's not in the report, it's very hard to see.