Crisis financiera y respuesta oportuna (por cercana)

Suele repetirse que una Justicia lenta, no es Justicia. Los efectos de un comportamiento ilícito deben ser enjuiciados y sus responsables sancionados en momentos próximos a su acaecimiento. Pretensiones que topan, sin embargo, con realidades que “explican” su no cumplimiento. Entre esas realidades cabe mencionar la complejidad que implica determinar hechos y sus responsables.

Esa circunstancia subyace en la actuación de inspección y sanción que en Estados Unidos se puso en marcha a partir de la explosión de la crisis financiera en 2007. Un artículo reciente en The Washington Post refleja  los problemas que ha encontrado la Securities and Exchange Commissión para perseguir conductas irregulares y que amenazan su actuación ante el riesgo de que el plazo de prescripción impida formular nuevas acusaciones. Ese plazo es de cinco años:
Some courts have ruled that the Securities and Exchange Commission can only obtain civil penalties for fraud within five years of the activity taking place. More recently, the influential federal district court in Manhattan ruled that time runs out five years after the SEC discovers or should have discovered the alleged fraud.
Either way, the agency is pressing up against deadlines — at least in matters that arose early in the financial crisis, which erupted in mid-2007, legal experts said.
Adviértase que han sido muchos los casos que ya se han traducido en  acusaciones y sanciones:
“The urgency may have to do as much with public demand for accountability in the financial meltdown as it does with deadlines. The SEC has charged 110 entities or individuals in financial crisis-related cases and collected $1.6 billion in penalties, the agency said. For instance, within the past two years, Goldman Sachs agreed to pay a record $550 million penalty and JPMorgan Chase agreed to a $153.6 million sanction. The government has not disclosed how many other probes are underway or who’s being investigated”.
Lo llamativo es que el plazo de cinco años parece ser dispositivo:
“But for whatever’s left in the pipeline, there are ways to get more time if needed.
For cases under active investigation, the SEC can negotiate “tolling agreements.” Under those arrangements, firms or people under investigation agree to waive the five-year limit — or else.
“There’s always this moment when the SEC says: ‘You enter into this tolling agreement or we sue you tomorrow,’” said John C. Coffee Jr., a law professor at Columbia Law School who specializes in security regulation. “Most defendants prefer to enter into this type of agreement and avoid a dramatic event such as a lawsuit.”
Aside from sullying the defendant’s reputation, a lawsuit also could force the SEC to air allegations that turn out not to be justified, legal experts said. It’s often in the interest of a firm or individual to give the SEC time to sort through the facts, they said.
For all those reasons, as the five-year anniversary of the financial crisis approaches, several lawyers say they’ve seen an uptick in tolling agreements”.
Todo ello, sin perjuicio de reiterar la importancia de una pronta acción, como presupuesto de una más eficaz investigación y eventual sanción:
“Still, there’s plenty of incentive for the SEC not to drag its feet.
Memories fade, evidence vanishes and witnesses disappear as time passes, eroding the agency’s ability to mount a successful case, agency officials said.
Taking action closer to the time of wrongdoing also deters similar fraudulent activity and makes it easier to compensate victims. Unlike many other agencies, the SEC can use penalties it collects to pay wronged investors instead of sending the money to the U.S. Treasury.
Madrid, 23 de Julio de 2012