WASHINGTON (AP) - Securities and Exchange Commission chairman
Christopher Cox said Tuesday his agency repeatedly failed for at least a decade to pursue allegations of wrongdoing by Wall Street figure Bernard L. Madoff, the alleged perpetrator of a $50 billion Ponzi scheme.
Cox ordered the SEC's inspector general to look into the failure, saying the agency's staff had never brought the Madoff matter to the attention of commissioners after relying on information voluntarily produced by Madoff and his firm.
"I am gravely concerned by the apparent multiple failures over at least a decade to thoroughly investigate these allegations or at any point to seek formal authority to pursue them," Cox said in a statement.
In a forceful condemnation of the SEC staff, Cox said there had been credible and specific allegations regarding Madoff's financial wrongdoing going back to at least 1999.
The SEC chairman's criticism of his own agency marks only the latest instance in which federal regulators have overlooked clear warning signs of possible fraud.
Its oversight of the Wall Street investment houses drew significant criticism. A review by the SEC inspector general determined that the agency's monitoring of the five biggest Wall Street firms, which included Bear Stearns, was lacking.
(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)