Matt Taibbi’s Rolling Stone article posted today about Mary Jo White is devastating — APPENDED*

I hadn’t read Taibbi’s reporting about a jaw-dropping series of events in 2004-05 involving White until just now, when I read his article posted today on the Rolling Stone website, summarizing them.  Call me naive–which is what I’m calling myself–but the article really shocked me.   

I wonder who recommended White to Obama. White surely isn’t in his “in” crowd, and I’ll go out on a limb here and venture that Obama was unaware of the events Taibbi discusses. The idea, I believe, was to pick someone from outside the SEC and from outside Washington–someone with serious major law enforcement cred who also knows the ins and outs of securities law and securities practices–whose nomination would send a signal that enforcement of finance laws would be a priority in Obama’s second term.  

I’m certainly no expert in any of the possibly relevant criminal laws, but I do know that the major federal criminal conspiracy law has a 10-year statute of limitations.  The time period, I believe, would include any illegal obstruction of justice, which, if there was any, would have occurred, I guess, in 2004 and 2005.  

From Taibbi’s article, the extent of White’s involvement is unclear, but, assuming the accuracy of the facts the article states, she did play a role.  The most culpable of the players seem to me to be the people involved within the SEC; there is a whiff of subtle bribery involving jobs with the law firm, but it appears that the subject was broached by the SEC lawyers rather than by the firm.  But I don’t see how this won’t be a high-publicity issue during her confirmation hearing if the mainstream media picks it up. The Republican senators won’t question her about it, but at least one Dem probably will. At least I hope so. This is really different than just the usual revolving door situation. This concerns facts about a specific case, and it’s seriously damaging, in my opinion.  

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*I want to append this post to add the following exchange this morning in the Comments thread, between reader Peter and me:

PETER:  Is this the same caring, compassionate, liberal, open-minded Matt Taibbi who wrote Andrew Breitbart: Death of a Deuche, threw coffee in the face of someone who had criticized one of his columns, and wrote 52 Funny Things about the Death of the Pope?
Beverly, lie down with dogs, you wake up with fleas. Can’t you find a decent human being to quote?

ME:  Peter, the only reason I wrote this post at all is that earlier yesterday, before I read Taibbi’s article but after I read David Sirota’s in Salon, I wrote one saying that I don’t buy into the criticism of White claiming that, because in recent years she has represented large financial institutions and executives of those institutions, including some involved in the events that crashed the economy and would have brought down the banking system had the federal government not intervened with TARP.  That post is [here].

I don’t read Rolling Stone regularly.  I’m on ReaderSupportedNews’s email listserve, and through them get headlines and links to some of what Taibbi writes, but I rarely click the link and read the article.  I’m not familiar with his comments about Breitbart after his death, or about the pope.  (Or about much of anything else about his writings.) What matters to me in the Taibbi article about White is the reporting on what happened in the John Mack case and what happened to Gary Aguirre.  It is Taiibi’s reports on the Aguirre matter, and the quotes from Aguirre, that caused me to write this post.  It is that alone that makes me very uncomfortable.  

But I’m glad my post said, “From Taibbi’s article, the extent of White’s involvement is unclear, but, assuming the accuracy of the facts the article states, she did play a role.” That is, I’m glad I made clear that the article doesn’t give enough information to know the extent of White’s involvement–the role she actually played.  And I’m glad I made clear that I’m assuming that the facts stated in the article, as far as they go, are accurate, but that I realize that that they may not be.

In my first post, I added a postscript saying that White would have to recuse herself from any matters concerning the past, in which she gained knowledge of specific facts–possible misconduct–through her representation of the bank or executive at issue. That’s a concern, too, I think.  I would much prefer a securities-law professor in that post.  
She may turn out to be a good choice.  She certainly knows how to use the investigative powers of the federal government to gain the information needed to be an effective SEC head.

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