Next is the more disturbing question: Did the S.E.C. let Goldman off too easy? As has been widely noted, the $550 million settlement, which has been approved by a federal judge, is chump change compared with Goldman's bonus pool, and less even than Goldman's depressed second-quarter profits.
In general, however, S.E.C. penalties are related to the amount of victims' losses, which the agency estimated at $1 billion. A settlement of over half the estimated losses is substantial. And that's not all the S.E.C. got.