Cohn's Scorecard: 2012
OVERALL GRADE: B
CEOs stay handcuff-free: A
Despite howls of protest from the Occupy Wall Street crowd—and angry comments from readers here after I made the prediction—Wall Street CEOs remained free and clear, despite the worst financial meltdown in generations.
Insider trading remains front and center: A
Former Goldman Sachs board member Rajat Gupta became the most prominent person ensnared in the feds' insider trading probe when a New York jury convicted him on four criminal counts in June. In November, prosecutors filed a criminal complaint against former SAC Capital portfolio manager Mathew Martoma, accused in what authorities call "the most lucrative insider trading scheme ever."
Ponzi schemes persist: A
In one of the most outlandish such schemes since Charles Ponzi promised customers in the 1920s that he could double their money by investing in foreign postal certificates, R. Allen Stanford was convicted in March of running a $7 billion scam involving foreign certificates of deposit. And Peter Madoff pleaded guilty to criminal charges in June, but denied knowing about his older brother's Ponzi scheme. Authorities used to avoid Ponzi cases because they are tough to prove, but since 2010 the SEC has brought more than 100 cases against some 200 people.
Health Care Fraud Focus: A
The Departments of Justice and Health and Human Services announced in February that their joint crackdown on Medicare and Medicaid Fraud had recovered a record $4.1 billion in the previous year. In one nationwide sweep in May, authorities arrested more than 100 people, accused of $450 million in false billings. All impressive numbers, until you consider that Medicare and Medicaid fraud is estimated to cost at least $80 billion a year.
Solyndra and MF Global: C
I correctly predicted the scandal over bankrupt solar energy firm Solyndra would fizzle. While it is still conceivable there could be charges, there are few signs the FBI investigation begun in September 2011 has gone anywhere. But I mistakenly sniffed a bigger scandal at MF Global, the brokerage headed by former New Jersey Governor Jon Corzine, which collapsed in 2011 with $1.6 billion in customer funds missing. While congressional investigators have blamed Corzine for the firm's collapse, law enforcement sources have indicated that neither Corzine nor anyone else is likely to be accused of committing crimes.