Since my teaching package includes Corporate Crimes, I've followed Eliot Spitzer's career in recent years, though not so much last year since I was on pretenure leave in the fall and taught Con Law in the spring. Still, it's one thing to read an occasional news story; it's altogether different to read a biography of Spitzer, as I did recently with Brooke Masters' Spoiling for a Fight, which the publisher sent to me.
I'll admit, I was quite bothered by a passage on page 15, where Masters, in discussing how the Reagan deregulation revolution impacted Spitzer's thinking, seemed to suggest that the Republicans invented "federalism" as a theory to justify deregulation. Ordinarily, I'd cut a non-lawyer some slack on such matters, but the way it was presented made me think that Masters was revealing a not-so-subtle political bias that was wholly ignorant of our constitutional history.
My concern passed, though, and I plowed ahead into the book. It's basically organized chronologically, but what works well is that Masters sticks to one scandal per chapter. Thus, we see how Spitzer approached the Wall Street analyst bias scandal (aka Henry Blodgett), the mutual fund after hour scandal, and the Dick Grasso retirement pay brohaha. In one passage that I particularly enjoyed (credit to Masters for her writing, but also to Spitzer, who apparently does have a wicked sense of humor), Spitzer was invited to give the keynote speech at a setting honoring 51 stock analyst "all stars." Spitzer's speech started by saying that it was nice to meet all these people, so that he could put faces to the names on the e-mails that his office was reviewing. Then he noted how of the 51 all-stars, something like two-thirds of them didn't even beat the average fund in their field!
Spitzer has been a polarizing figure in corporate scandals, lionized by some and demonized by others. As I read Masters' account of his investigations, I was consistently struck by two thoughts: (1) Spitzer's targets generally seem like they warranted investigations, and the other regulatory agencies hadn't been performing that function; and (2) the methods that Spitzer used (public denunciations, often pre-indictment; leveraging the threat of criminal conviction of corporations, especially after the demise of Arthur Andersen, to extract massive settlements; almost utter failure to provide any restitution to individual victims, with the money going to the state of New York; and unrelenting obnoxiousness and combativeness with even erstwhile allies) left a bad taste in my mouth. Though his targets may have deserved what happened to them, the biggest beneficiary by far has been . . . Eliot Spitzer, who appears on his way to become Governor of New York.