Mary Jo White's SEC is out to fight crime.
This week, the Securities Exchange Commission and the Justice Department filed separate lawsuits in North Carolina against Bank of America and two of its subsidiaries, claiming that the company defrauded its investors when it sold them $855 million worth of "toxic waste," i.e. risky mortgage-backed securities, but forgot to tell them about the "toxic waste" part.
This is the latest in a series of SEC crackdowns on firms caught up in the financial crisis. In the past month, the agency has charged hedge-fund manager Steven Cohen with failing to supervise two employees accused of insider trading, and it recently decided to renege on its previous settlement with Philip Falcone, a money manager accused of market manipulation, so that it can pursue harsher punishment against him.
White, the recently appointed SEC chairwoman, is alternately described as a Wall Street-loving regulation softie and a knight-like enforcer leading the charge on government crackdown. It's too soon to tell what her record at the SEC will look like, but in this newest effort to take on a banking giant, it seems like she might set a tone of strong enforcement.