From today's Washington Post front-pager:

During Cox's tenure, penalties imposed on companies fell 84 percent, from $1.59 billion in 2005 to $256 million in 2008.

Cox's predecessor as chairman, William Donaldson, had pursued hefty penalties against companies accused of wrongdoing, often despite dissent from other commissioners. But when Cox took office, there was a growing concern within government and the financial industry that the United States was losing business to less-regulated markets overseas, and Cox wanted to achieve consensus among the commissioners.

One commissioner, Paul Atkins, was particularly skeptical about corporate penalties. He argued that these ultimately were shouldered by shareholders -- the very people most frequently hurt by fraud -- and he often asked for more time to review cases.

So it's safe to assume that Atkins favored imposing penalties directly on management rather than the company itself, right?

--Noam Scheiber