A key watchdog group urged the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) Tuesday to investigate a partnership between noted Wall Street short-seller Steven Eisman and the Obama administration regarding burdensome new regulations on the for-profit education sector.
A March 1 letter from Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) highlights documents released last week under the Freedom of Information Act showing extensive collaboration between the short seller and the administration.
In one email, Eisman alerted Department of Education officials to market reaction he claimed was caused by the view on Wall Street the agency was backing down from a strict regulatory approach.
“I know you cannot respond,” Eisman wrote July 19 to a top Education bureaucrat, “But just fyi. Education stocks are running because people are hearing DOE is backing down from gainful employment [regulations].”
Eisman’s email was forwarded to a top aide to Education Secretary Arne Duncan, Phil Marten, with the request, “Let’s discuss.”
Further, the documents hint Eisman and other short sellers may have been given advanced notice of key regulatory moves by the agency, which would have allowed them to position themselves early in the market, and profit handsomely.
Trading on inside information about the government’s regulatory actions is not illegal.
CREW wants the SEC to investigate because the “document[s] reinforce … apparent collusion between Mr. Eisman and Education in an effort to manipulate the price of stocks in for-profit education companies.”
The letter also says a full investigation is important because the Education Department may not have provided all relevant documents responsive to its FOIA request.