SEC: “Can’t Find Backside With Both Hands”

OK. I’ll admit it. Most days I’m really grumpy when tethered to the treadmill. But I laughed so hard this morning that I almost rocketed off the belt. Not a funny story, really. But there is a lesson here for PR people and those who are facing tough interviews. To wit: Be responsive. Tell the truth. And don’t be so damn arrogant — and smug.

It’s a lesson that the Wizards of Wall Street better take to heart before they make the perk walk to Capitol Hill next week to explain to Congressman Barney Frank and others how they cratered the economy — and then resumed their normal lives. So I urge the PR people who are counseling the Wizards to watch this video. It involves a congressional hearing yesterday looking into the Bernie Madoff scandal and why the SEC couldn’t find its “backside with both hands if the lights were on.”

Here’s from The New York Times article:

The agency’s [SEC] officials repeatedly tried to explain that they could not discuss the handling of the Madoff case without jeopardizing that pending investigation — and were repeatedly cut off by lawmakers who demanded specific information about the handling of the case.

Representative Paul E. Kanjorski, Democrat of Pennsylvania and the hearing chairman, criticized the official position as an expression of arrogance that he said was at the root of the agency’s regulatory failures.

Congress is in the midst of creating regulatory changes that could change the agency’s fate, Mr. Kanjorski warned the panel of official witnesses. Lawmakers want immediate candor about the handling of the Madoff matter, not generalities, he said.

But the hearing became a collision of frustrations that, at one point, prompted Mr. Kanjorski to accuse the staff members of refusing to cooperate with a branch of government that could wipe their entire agency off the regulatory map, if necessary.

Representative Gary L. Ackerman, Democrat of New York, was more blunt in his condemnation of the S.E.C. officials sitting before him: “We thought the enemy was Mr. Madoff. I think it is you.”

Ouch. Clearly Ackerman was not amused. I laughed when I first saw the video. But I’m not amused either.

Good luck to the Wizards next week.

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