As surely as little boys on sleds follow the first snowfall, the departure of Mary Schapiro as chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission has occasioned one fawning encomium after another from the press.
'It’s not a stretch to say she has saved the regulatory body from irrelevance, if not outright extinction, and she has rebuilt it into a powerful presence on Wall Street', wrote Dana Milbank of the Washington Post.
The New York Times’s business section carried an homage to Schapiro, along with the requisite photograph of her looking off into the middle distance, pensively, as the late-afternoon sun flooded an SEC conference room. 'As her bruising tenure comes to an end', the article said, she 'leaves behind a stronger S.E.C., an overhaul characterized by her attention to detail and meticulous preparation'.
Bloomberg contributor William D Cohan says that he understands the time-honored ritual of praising a departing public servant for his or her selflessness in passing up millions of dollars in the private sector to take on the thankless task of heading up a powerful government agency. But enough already.
Let’s face it: Mary Schapiro did a lousy job as head of the SEC. What we needed was an SEC that would not only do its primary job of protecting investors from the likes of Bernie Madoff but also would hold Wall Street executives accountable for their extraordinarily bad - and, yes, in some cases criminal - behavior leading up to the 2007 and 2008 financial crisis.
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William D. Cohan is the author of the recently released Money and Power: How Goldman Sachs Came to Rule the World and the New York Times bestsellers House of Cards and The Last Tycoons.
Cohan is a contributing editor at Vanity Fair and writes frequently for Financial Times, Fortune, The Atlantic and The Washington Post. He worked on Wall Street as a senior mergers and acquisitions banker for 15 years. He also worked for two years at G.E. Capital. Cohan is a graduate of Duke University, Columbia University School of Journalism and Columbia University Graduate School of Business. The Last Tycoons won the 2007 Financial Times/Goldman Sachs Business Book of the Year Award.