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Federal Judge Jed Rakoff '64 Rejects SEC, Bank of America Settlement

Federal Judge Jed Rakoff '64
Rejects SEC, Bank of America Settlement

by Nancy Nicely

swarthmore college

Jed Rakoff '64



Manhattan federal judge Jed Rakoff '64 is praised in the Wall Street Journal for taking on "heavyweight institutions and their lawyers," in this case the SEC and Bank of America. Criticizing the bonuses that Merril Lynch paid out before it was acquired by Bank of America, he rejected the $33 million settlement that the SEC had said resolved the matter. 

According to the WSJ, "During the hearing, the judge hammered the SEC over the size of the settlement figure, asking is 'there something not strangely askew in a fine of $33 million' given the size of the bonuses paid out? Judge Rakoff also pushed for greater disclosure from the SEC of who might have been at fault at Bank of America and Merrill Lynch regarding the alleged failure in disclosure. 'Was it some sort of ghost or a human being?' the judge said." News of his final decision appears in the New York Times.

Rakoff, widely recognized for his legal opinions in the areas of securities and copyright law and constitutional rights, is the author of three books, over 100 articles, and co-author of two multi-volume reference works on the law. In 2002, citing recent cases which had been reversed on the basis of DNA evidence, he argued that innocent people are sentenced to death with materially greater frequency than was previously supposed; and, in a landmark and fiercely independent decision, he ruled the federal death penalty unconstitutional. Constitutional law professor Laurence Tribe praised the decision, saying: "I've been thinking about this issue in a serious way for at least 20 years, and this is the first fresh, new, and convincing argument that I've seen." And The New York Times described the ruling as "offering a cogent, powerful argument that all members of Congress - indeed, all Americans - should contemplate."