Wanted: A Single State Attorney General Willing To Take On Wall Street

Saturday, March 03, 2018
Ted Siedle, Guest MINDSETTERâ„¢

Ted Siedle
One courageous state Attorney General, Eliot Spitzer of New York, from 1999 to 2006, showed the nation how to effectively take on Wall Street. Today investors globally benefit from the mutual fund and other investigations he championed leading the way for, as well as putting to shame, federal and state regulators.

In 2005, the president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce described Spitzer's approach as "the most egregious and unacceptable form of intimidation we've seen in this country in modern times."

An Attorney General who intimidates, as opposed to being intimidated by, Wall Street?

That’s high praise in my book.

Since Spitzer left the office of New York Attorney General, no state Attorney General has followed in his footsteps. (I neither defend nor address his personal foibles—only his impressive professional accomplishments. Full disclosure: I both knew Spitzer and worked with his office on investigations when he was AG.)

According to the National Association of Attorneys General each of the 50 states and the District of Columbia has an Attorney General. Additional member of NAAG include the Commonwealths of Puerto Rico (Secretary of Justice) and the Northern Mariana Islands, and the territories of American Samoa, Guam, and the Virgin Islands.

Remarkably, despite the clear road map Spitzer left to national prominence, not 1 in 50 state Attorneys General over the past 12 years has elected to go the extra mile to protect citizens of his or her state as vigorously as Spitzer did. That’s pathetic.

Spitzer stepped up the profile of the office of state Attorney General. State Attorneys General had traditionally pursued consumer rights cases, concentrating on local fraud while deferring national issues to the federal government. Breaking with tradition, Spitzer took up civil actions and criminal prosecutions relating to corporate white-collar crime, securities fraud, Internet fraud, and environmental protection.

To be sure, the New York Attorney General's office is unique in that it has Wall Street within its jurisdiction. Also, the office wields greater powers of investigation and prosecution of corporations under New York law. In particular, under the Martin Act of 1921, the New York Attorney General has the power to subpoena witnesses and company documents pertaining to investigations of fraud or illegal activity by a corporation. Spitzer used this statute to prosecute cases previously considered exclusively within federal jurisdiction.

Now, if I were considering running for Attorney General of a state (which I am) I'd aim to achieve previously unimagined levels of protection of citizens of that state, as I held my family close to me. A state Attorney General so motivated could literally change the world.


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