Confessed Wall Street swindler Bernard Madoff's investment firm faced investigation at least eight times since 1992.
"The Wall Street Journal" reports that regulators never got the goods on Madoff until his own sons turned him in in December.
That, despite 16 years of trying and several loud and detailed complaints from critics.
A hedge fund emailed a tip to the Securities and Exchange Commission that Madoff's business practices were "highly unusual." The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FIRA) reported in 2007 that parts of Madoff's company appeared to have no customers.
One business rival filed a 21-page report in 2005 that insisted the former Nasdaq chairman ran, quote, "the world's largest Ponzi scheme."
That is, in fact, exactly how Madoff described his firm when it finally collapsed late last year, wiping out scores of private investors, charities and investment funds.
Yet neither the SEC or FIRA were able to pin more than minor violations on him, or send more than a warning letter.
Both agencies will be among the regulators to come under a probe of their own today. Congress is hauling them before the House Financial Services Committee.
One concern is that the SEC lacks the know-how to keep up with fraudsters and their increasingly complex schemes.
Letting Madoff slip through chasm-sized cracks is also a potential embarrassment for Mary Schapiro, the ex-FIRA chief who's been tapped by the president-elect to take over the SEC.
(Copyright 2009 by Newsroom Solutions)