Would You Turn Down $8m to Make a Point to the SEC?

That’s what whistleblower and former Deutsche Bank risk officer Eric Ben Artzi announced he is going to do.  Ben Artzi went to the SEC after criticizing certain accounting practices at the bank.  The SEC settled its claims with the bank for $55m.  But Ben Artzi believes that the fine unfairly punishes the bank’s shareholders instead of the executives involved in the malfeasance.  He blames the “revolving door” between the SEC and big banks as the culprit for executives once again being let off the hook at a big bank, noting that “top SEC lawyers had held senior posts at the bank, moving in and out of top positions at the regulator even as the investigations into malfeasance at Deutsche were ongoing.”

From where I sit, I see the SEC and DOJ going after the owners and executives of small companies on a daily basis while executives at the big banks continue to get a pass.  So Ben-Artzi’s criticisms ring true, and his brave effort to bring attention to the problem deserves to be commended.

(For a particularly stark example, compare how the DOJ treated HSBC’s laundering of drug money with how the government treats small businesses (often innocently) caught up in such schemes, and the small-time drug dealers who federal prosecutors send to prison for decades.)