After the Bernard Madoff fraud came to light, costing investors an estimated $50 billion, it emerged that the SEC had fallen down on the job, in part because, as we detailed
last month, it had soft-pedaled its enforcement duty. And today, the head of the agency's Office of Compliance, Inspections and Examinations, Lori Richards, testified before the Senate Banking committee about how to prevent future Madoffs.
Richards said the agency plans to increase the frequency of its examinations of investment advisers, investigate the existence of unregulated advisers, and broadly consider different regulatory structures -- an idea that seems to have gained ground lately
Richards said that in recent years, the number of registered investment advisers has grown past 10,000. OCIE has just 425 employees to oversee them. And Madoff wasn't even registered -- hence the need to begin monitoring them too.
It'll be a while until we know how all this will play out. But it certainly looks like under President Obama and new agency chair Mary Schapiro, enforcement will no longer take a backseat at SEC, as it did during the Bush years.