Earlier this week, Robert Schmidt and Jesse Hamilton made headlines with a Bloomberg News article sifting through a pile of SEC e-mail correspondence between regulators and former regulators-turned-lobbyists. Or, in the case of Annette Nazareth, who gets a particularly bright spotlight, not a lobbyist but a "substantive lawyer" for Wall Street's too-big-to-fail club. (Not that those of us outside the Beltway can tell the difference.) Today, Schmidt and Hamilton are back with a follow-up, this time in the Washington Post, further dissecting Nazareth's e-mails with SEC Chairman Mary Schapiro — whom she met at least eleven times between 2009 and 2010 — and then-general-counsel David Becker. Except the authors do their otherwise solid investigative work a disservice by harping on the style of Nazareth's e-mails, including how she would occasionally start off messages with a friendly "Hello all," or familiar "Dear SEC friends." The fact that she calls her former colleagues 'friends' is not exactly scandalous.
Nor is replying, "Fantastic, Mary!" after Schapiro agreed to meet with one of Nazareth's Swiss clients. Although signing an e-mail to Becker with "Your Faithful PR Department" is slightly more dubious, as was the time she complained to him that, “You never call. You never write. Do you have any time for lunch?" It's like dialogue from a B-movie romantic comedy.
What's truly scandalous is when Nazareth, operating on behalf of the law firm of Davis Polk & Wardwell, took it upon herself to do the SEC's own homework. Like the Davis Polk summaries of Dodd-Frank draft bills she sent to Schapiro, Becker, and others — "to assist all of my overworked friends at the commission," the attached note read. Later, after an eleventh-hour Dodd-Frank powwow session in late June 2010, Nazareth passed around a heavily annotated draft of the bill, with a deceptively blasé: "In case you would find it helpful."
While legally above board, this all speaks volumes about the chummy, unsightly side of DC power-brokering — you can almost hear Annette Nazareth zooming through the "revolving door" at the agency's F Street headquarters — not to mention suggesting that the SEC is seriously understaffed.