Last week, we wrote about a damning example of regulatory capture that occurred at a conference at Stanford Law School on March 5. In the Q&A session, the SEC’s head of examinations, Andrew Bowden, threw a big bouquet at an industry he oversees, private equity, repeatedly calling it “the greatest,” praising its returns, and saying that he’s told his son that he’d really do well to get a job in private equity.
The International Business Times, Bloomberg, and Truthout quickly picked up on the story. Bill Black wrote that SEC chairman Mary Jo White should demand Bowden’s resignation.
Less than 36 hours after we’d published the video clip, Stanford had removed the conference video from its site. As the person who alerted me remarked, “Very unacademic conduct–as soon as criticism is received, to hide.”
We wrote about how the full video had disappeared and posted our copy on YouTube within 12 hours. We also asked readers to contact Stanford for an explanation. Reader Balaji sent us the e-mail reply he received Friday from Sabrina Johnson at Stanford Law:
Dean Magill forwarded your email to me. Thanks for checking in with us about this. This video was temporarily taken down due to the fact that it was a raw, live-stream version that hadn’t been cleaned up. The updated version will not edit out any of the conversation; it will simply include our title card and description as we do with all of our event videos. We are happy to send you the link when it’s posted early next week.
This response nevertheless fails to answer why the video was removed at all, since the original version had been up for two weeks and was therefore apparently acceptable as an interim record.
To its credit, Stanford did follow up with Balaji on Monday afternoon:
As promised, here are the links to the three video segments of the event The Silicon Valley Initiative: Emerging Regulatory Issues in Private Equity, Venture Capital, and Capital Formation. The video with Andrew Bowden was Private Equity and Venture Capital Regulation Since Dodd-Frank: A Dialogue on How It’s Working and Lessons Learned.
Discussion | Keynote Remarks from SEC Commissioner Kara Stein
Discussion | The New Frontier in Raising Capital After the JOBS Act
Discussion | Private Equity and Venture Capital Regulation Since Dodd-Frank
Note that the three videos together come in at only a bit more than half the time of the raw version, which you can see here. That’s because the original contained a lot of non-presentation milling time. For instance, if you look at our unedited copy, you’ll see it starts with an empty conference room and records the 46-47 minutes while the room fills up. It also records the room between sessions, when the panelists were still near the mikes engaged in discussion. I only listened to the first 7 minutes or so of the break after the panel with Andrew Bowden, and due to the din in the room, you could only hear the occasional phrase by a panelist whose voice you remembered from the session proper. I intend to play the entire section, since the crowd in the room did appear to be thinning out as more went to the reception outside the conference room, so it is remotely possible something of interest was in the excised part. However, the Bowden clip we flagged is in the Stanford segment, at at around 1:09:15. And the overall time of that segment is the same as the length of the original absent the pre-panel portion. So Stanford looks to be as good as their word in terms of not removing any content from the panels.
Now it may well be that Stanford Law School would have released the prettied-up videos whether or not we had republished the raw feed that they had removed; we’ll never know. But as Bill Black pointed out by e-mail, we left them with no option: “You’ve embarrassed them so badly that they’re in full scale retreat.”
The legislative branch, the executive branch, the judicial branch, the faith branch, the MSM branch, the military branch, the education branch: all corrupted (the latter illustrated by the few holdouts still capable of embarrassment). Neat. An animal farm perhaps, a sick twisted zoo for sure.
Let us remember that Bowden’s ego-stroking of the PE industry was not the only damning evidence contained in the video. IIRC, there was some consternation expressed over the lack of disclosure of certain conflicts of interest by one of the panel conveners.
I think it would be a little naive to give Stanford the benefit of the doubt on this one. The timing is just too suspicious. For one, there is no reason why the raw video couldn’t have been left up right until the final edit was posted. To remove the raw footage only after it had become the object of public discussion is a clear sign that they were not acting honestly. Unless they can produce a much better explanation, I’m not buying it. In fact, even if it were normal procedure to take the unedited version down long before posting the final cut, once it entered the public discourse they should have left it up for the sake of informing the public dialogue. It would help if they also censured the dude who didn’t divulge his less-than-disinterested relationship with the PE (Pretty Egregious) industry.
On the whole, far too suspicious for me to give them a pass.
And also: great work gals and guys! Yves and Richard and everyone who harassed them into retreat.
Naked Capitalism: Using the Power of the Internet to Shame the Powers That Be into Doing the Right Thing.
Hear, hear! Agree wholeheartedly!
I’d love to have been in the room with the Dean et al while they made the the decision to either
(a) Re post the video, or
(b) Call the lawyers.
I wonder how many votes there were for (b) since it was probably the default action. I’m guessing that seeing that splash in the LA Times with NC referenced directly made (b) untenable since it would push the story even further out into the MSM.
I suspect it was the Bloomberg story by Matt Levine, actually, since he has a big following. Remember, the Los Angeles Times story appeared Friday evening after 6:00 PM, while Stanford told Balaji on Friday morning Pacific time that they were restoring it. The only way Stanford might have had a head’s up is if the columnist, Mike Hitzik, called them for comments. But the LAT story no doubt put extra heat on them to get the video back up pronto.
Any comment from Elizabeth Warren?
Not yet. Please call or e-mail her!