Will Wall Street behave without its sheriff?

NY Attorney General Elliot Spitzer

KAI RYSSDAL: You've heard us refer to him for years as the New York attorney general. Eliot Spitzer's his actual name. And he'll have another title soon. He won the governor's race in the Empire State last night by a record margin. Spitzer made his political bones by going after New York's finance industry. And Marketplace's Amy Scott reports, Wall Street will be only too happy to see him move on.


AMY SCOTT: As New York's attorney general, Eliot Spitzer has given federal regulators a run for their money. It was his office that cracked down on tainted stock research by the country's top investment banks; that uncovered widespread abuses in mutual fund trading; that investigated former New York Stock Exchange Chairman Richard Grasso's generous paycheck. The list goes on.
JAMES COX: I can't recall any attorney general that's pressed into so many sectors of the financial community with such, not only aggressiveness, but also with such success.

That's James Cox. He teaches securities law at Duke University. He says Spitzer's staff deserves a lot of the credit. It's not clear how many of them will remain when Andrew Cuomo takes over. But Cox says Spitzer also served at a unique time in U.S. financial history, as the excesses of the 1990s stock market produced scandal after scandal.

COX: So it was a fertile field for him to cast his net upon, and as a result of that I don't think we're going to see the same convergence of events for Mr. Cuomo.

Cuomo served as housing secretary in the Clinton Administration. His campaign for attorney general focused on cleaning up government corruption. Mitchell Moss teaches public policy at New York University.

MITCHELL MOSS: There are a number of public authorities in the state of New York which could warrant a good investigation. So Andrew Cuomo I think has the opportunity to make his mark and that will probably be in areas different than Eliot's.

Spitzer, too, has vowed to turn his eye toward reforming politics in Albany and reviving the upstate economy in his new role as governor.

With its toughest cop off the beat, Wall Street may breathe a little easier.

In New York, I'm Amy Scott for Marketplace.

About the author

Amy Scott is Marketplace’s education correspondent covering the K-12 and higher education beats, as well as general business and economic stories.

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