"Richard Simpson is a relentless litigator who brought the Antar clan to its knees," Sam E. Antar told me on the phone today. Sam is the cousin of Crazy Eddie Antar, the consumer electronics retailer charged with securities fraud and illegal insider trading in 1989. One of the largest securities frauds of its time, former U.S. Attorney Michael Chertoff called Eddie Antar "the Darth Vader of Capitalism."
Sam Antar offered to testify for Federal prosecutors in exchange for immunity. That's how the Crazy Eddie accountant came to work with Simpson, who is lead counsel in the SEC's fraud charges against Goldman-Sachs. "Rick is a tough adversary. I swear he works over 90 hours a week. He's focused, aggressive, and understands the way criminals operate. He knows accounting backward and forward, which is rare for an attorney. Richard Simpson is what the SEC should be today, but unfortunately is not."
Antar admits to being verbally abusive to Simpson back in the day and marveling at how the prosecutor kept his cool. "He is tough, but always a gentleman."
Richard Simpson is a dedicated career veteran who has spent more than 20 years in the SEC Enforcement Division, a rarity today. He was lead counsel on SEC vs. Peter Lybrand (Southern District of New York), and SEC vs. Ed Johnson (District of New Jersey). In relative terms, the Crazy Eddie recovery still stands at or near the top of the list, at 40 cents on the dollar. Justin Feldman, former attorney for Eddie Antar, told the SEC Historical Society that Simpson is tenacious. "I'm telling you, he wanted every dollar back. We had to fight with him to get 10 cents on the dollar on our fees."
Not everyone is confident the SEC will be tough enough in the Goldman-Sachs case. Forensic accountant Tracy Coenen told me via email, "I'd like to be optimistic this is part of a new and improved SEC that will go after bad actors more aggressively. However, with their history of incompetence, I can't help but be skeptical of the results they'll actually get."
Former banker and retired FBI agent Paul D. Hayes told me on the phone he is impressed with Simpson. "He has the utmost respect for the procedures of civil and criminal law. He lets the facts tell the story, and yet he's innovative as well. He'll investigate areas where there's no precedent in law, but are fair areas to address. That's what he did in the Crazy Eddie case."
Investigative journalist Gary Weiss says the charges, if they stick, are going to sink Goldman. "This is pure sliminess."
UPDATE 4.18.10: Sam Antar says the SEC sent Goldman-Sachs the "kiss of death message" on Friday. You can read Antar's analysis here.
UPDATE 4.19.10: The Wall Street Journal confirms Antar was right about the SEC's kiss of death.
UPDATE 7.15.10: Reuters blogger Felix Salmon reports that Goldman Sachs has settled with the SEC rather than endure the negative PR spectacle of a jury trial. Goldman will pay $550 million in fines and restitution, the largest penalty ever assessed against a financial services firm in the history of the SEC. Despite Goldman's early bluster about wanting a jury trial, "some kind of settlement was always likely," said Salmon, who was surprised the SEC didn't ask Goldman for some kind of mea culpa. "Clients will probably never trust Goldman as much as they did before the crisis, but that was true even before the SEC brought its case," said Salmon. The Goldman settlement was announced the same afternoon Congress passed the financial regulation bill. Surprised? "Politics as usual," said Sam Antar.
UPDATE 7.16.10: A resolution requiring Goldman's self-assessment is meaningless, concludes white collar fraud whistleblower Sam Antar. How will 2012 voters feel about all the potentially meaningless reforms coming out of Washington these days? It could get interesting...