World Economic Forum
Sometimes it feels like a pile-on, but when you hear stories about SEC officials being this clueless, you just have to share them (we spotted this one via Bloomberg’s Matt Levine).
Cathy O’Neil, a former employee of hedge fund D.E. Shaw and current program director at Columbia’s School of Journalism, was telling stories about her experience with the SEC on Slate’s Money’s podcast this weekend.
For years, O’Neil has been an advocate for more transparency on Wall Street. She was a part of Occupy Wall Street’s Alternative Banking Group, and even applied for work at the SEC in 2009. They never responded.
Three years later the agency tried to recruit her to work on insider trading cases, so O’Neil met with an SEC official over lunch.
She said that that lunch just happened to be on the same day that then-Citigroup CEO Vikram Pandit was supposed to call her. Her Occupy group had released a press release asking Pandit to answer questions about his bank.
So, as one does to be polite in situations like this, O’Neil told her interviewer that she may have to take a call during their lunch. She apologized for her rudeness, of course, but Vikram Pandit was obviously a very busy man.
O’Neil interviewer responded with a simple — “Who’s Vikram Pandit?”
“I was like, oh wow. Wow,” O’Neil said.
She went on to say that she had asked her interviewer if, instead of working on insider trading cases, she could dig into mortgage-backed securities (MBS) dating back to the financial crisis. O’Neil wanted to prove that people structuring those securities knew that they were crap.
She asked if the statute of limitations had passed on MBS cases, making that kind of work a waste of time.
To which her interviewer responded — “I have no idea… I hadn’t thought about it.”
You can’t make this stuff up.