Colin Barr

Following the money in banking, economics, and Washington

SEC hits a new low on Lehman

June 6, 2011: 12:00 PM ET

You may have assumed the government couldn't come up any emptier in bringing the rich guys behind the financial crisis to justice. But think again.

The Securities and Exchange Commission has so whiffed on its investigation of what brought down Lehman Brothers that it may resort to issuing a paper listing the allegations surrounding the firm rather than charging anyone with civil securities fraud.

Allegedly looks like a can opener

The news that Dick Fuld, Erin Callan and the gang are going to walk is not exactly news, of course. We knew three months ago that the SEC probably wasn't going to charge top officers in the biggest-ever U.S. bankruptcy, in part because the accounting ruse they oversaw isn't necessarily illegal.

And of course, even if the SEC were to sue Fuld and Callan and their former colleagues, a civil action would at best amount to a light slap on the thick wallets of people who made huge sums while piloting the investment bank into the rocks. By now it seems clear enough that no criminal cases are going to be brought against anyone you've ever heard of in the financial meltdown.

And maybe that's as it should be, though it's hard to believe there was no crime in the bubble. But that aside, why issue an investigative report on Lehman when there is already an exhaustive account of the firm's demise on record thanks to the bankruptcy examiner? Even by the SEC's standards that seems like a waste of time.

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About This Author
Colin Barr
Colin Barr
Senior Writer, Fortune

Colin Barr has covered finance for since November 2007. Previously he was a writer and editor for, winning a 2006 Society of American Business Editors and Writers award for "The Five Dumbest Things on Wall Street," and for Dow Jones Newswires. He is a 1991 graduate of Penn State and lives in Port Washington, N.Y., with his wife Meena Bose and their two kids.

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