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SEC Employee's Goodbye Party Leads to More than Cake and Farewells

Bruce Carton | April 11, 2014

On March 27, a group of about 70 people gathered at a goodbye party for retiring SEC attorney James Kidney. Kidney joined the SEC in 1986 and worked at the agency until March 2014 with the exception of a four-year period when he worked at Aetna Inc. 

Somehow, Kidney's goodbye party departed from standard employee goodbye party protocol--where the departing employee thanks everyone for the cake and for coming out to say goodbye--into something quite different. According to numerous reports this week (not to mention a full-blown transcript of Kidney's "Retirement Remarks" obtained and published by the SEC Union), Kidney took the opportunity at his goodbye party to lambaste his long-time employer for numerous supposed transgressions, including being too “tentative and fearful” to bring cases against Wall Street executives following the financial crisis.

Kidney had plenty more to say about SEC policy at his goodbye party, including critiques of the metrics used to evaluate the Enforcement Division, the perils of the "revolving door," and so on. He labeled the SEC "at most a tollbooth on the bankster turnpike." He closed by saying that notwithstanding his parting shots, he would "always bleed SEC blue."  Read the entire goodbye party speech here if you care to do so.

If you believed that a goodbye party speech critical of the SEC would not be turned into national news, then clearly you have not been paying attention lately. See, e.g., the media coverage of this not-ready-for-primetime study alleging insider trading by SEC employees. On Tuesday, Bloomberg, The New York Times, and the usual suspects all covered Kidney's goodbye party remarks as if they were the Gettysburg Address. Bloomberg View's Jonathan Weil called it The Best SEC Speech Ever and joked(?) that Kidney should be made an SEC commissioner. Business Insider did what Business Insider does, gleefully serving up the headline,"Lifetime SEC Lawyer Totally Shreds The Agency On His Way Out." And so on.

Later on Tuesday, Bloomberg interviewed Tom Sporkin, a 20-year veteran and former senior official in the Enforcement Division now a partner at law firm BuckleySandler, to see if Kidney's goodbye party remarks gibed with Sporkin's own experience at the agency. Sporkin said they did not, and that he was surprised to hear many of Kidney's complaints. For another view of the world (even though it is not delivered at a goodbye party), take 5 minutes and listen to what Sporkin has to say in this video: