Mary L. Schapiro, the chairwoman of the Securities and Exchange Commission, defended her agency on Wednesday against Republican critics who had accused the S.E.C. of playing politics by filing securities fraud charges against Goldman Sachs while the Senate was debating a sweeping overhaul of the nation’s financial regulations.
“The S.E.C. is an independent law enforcement agency,” Ms. Schapiro said in a statement. “We do not time our cases around political events or the legislative calendar.” Ms. Schapiro’s comments came as President Obama denied any suggested link between the Goldman fraud case and the financial regulatory debate, telling CNBC on Wednesday that the idea was “completely false.”
Representative Darrell Issa of California and several other Republicans on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee sent a letter to the S.E.C. on Tuesday expressing concern over the timing of the Goldman fraud charges and questioning the agency’s independence.
“The events of the past five days have fueled legitimate suspicion on the part of the American people that the commission has attempted to assist the White House, the Democratic Party and Congressional Democrats by timing the suit to coincide with the Senate’s consideration of financial regulatory legislation, or by providing Democrats with advance notice,” Mr. Issa wrote.
“The American people have a right to know whether the commission, or any of its officers or employees, may have violated federal law by using the resources of an independent regulatory agency to promote a partisan political agenda,” Mr. Issa added.
Ms. Schapiro responded Wednesday afternoon that “on a personal level, I am disappointed by the rhetoric.”
“In all my years as a commissioner and chair at the S.E.C. and the C.F.T.C. — having been nominated to these posts by presidents of both political parties dating back to Ronald Reagan — I cannot think of any instance where politics was a consideration in bringing an enforcement action. Nor should it ever be,” Ms. Schapiro said in her statement.