A number of newspapers this morning have coverage of SEC chairman Christopher Cox’s speech and Q&A at the Society of American Business Editors and Writers‘ annual conference in Minneapolis.
The issue is whether the SEC should subpoena business journalists as part of its investigations, as it did earlier this year with MarketWatch’s Herb Greenberg and others at Dow Jones and TheStreet.com.
Susan Tompor of the Detroit Free Press, writes, “And if sources fear that their e-mails will be handed over to the SEC, they may be less willing to provide information to journalists.
“And frankly, the SEC’s quick response shows that the deal with Greenberg was simply too foolish for words.
“Greenberg, who also spoke to the journalists in another session on Sunday, noted that attorneys at Dow Jones had told him that they had never seen such a subpoena issued by the SEC in the past.
“Cox would not go so far to say that the SEC would never issue another subpoena in the future. He noted that there may be times when a reporter or columnist is suspected of wrongdoing and then a subpoena could be warranted.”
A transcript of Cox’s speech can be found here.
I think there are a few interesting passages in the speech, including this:
“Plain speaking journalists, who use plain English to give investors the important facts they need to know about business and finance. That’s a fair description of this group. The truth is, the SEC couldn’t do its job without you.
“The SEC would eventually have found out about Enron. But as it happened, the Commission first got interested because our staff read in the Wall Street Journal about suspicious partnerships run by Andy Fastow.
“There are many other examples of journalism blazing a trail that SEC has followed. Very recently, in SEC v. Ross, the Commission filed civil charges in Connecticut against five individuals for fraud in an initial public offering. A reporter for the New Haven Advocate had been solicited to participate in the IPO, and wrote a column about it. The US Attorney’s Office then picked it up, and they in turn referred it to us.”
Is he sucking up to us, or he is letting business journalists know that there is a rationale for the subpoenas?