WASHINGTON, Feb 21 (Reuters) - The annual “SEC Speaks” conference is usually a sea of dark business suits, as buttoned-down lawyers descend on Washington to hear U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission regulators describe their priorities.
This year, a man in a gray hoodie stuck out in the crowd.
The man was Dallas Mavericks basketball team owner and outspoken billionaire Mark Cuban. In October, he beat the SEC in a high-profile insider-trading case against him.
Since then, Cuban has remained fixated on the happenings at the SEC.
He is buying up the transcripts from every SEC trial and posting commentary about them on his blog, Blog Maverick. He has also not been shy about criticizing by name the SEC lawyers who tried his case.
Throughout Friday’s conference, hosted by the Pracitising Law Institute, Cuban sat in the back of the large auditorium, lighting up the Twitter-sphere with lively commentary about speeches from top SEC officials.
His first victim? SEC Chair Mary Jo White, who described the SEC’s “vigorous and comprehensive enforcement of our securities laws” and its “landmark insider trading cases”.
“Unfortunately when it comes to her comments on enforcement she showed a lack of self awareness,” Cuban tweeted. “But to her credit she is selling hard.”
An SEC spokesman declined to comment on the remarks.
Cuban’s presence in the room quickly became the talk of the conference.
At one point, SEC Democratic Commissioner Luis Aguilar, who is of Cuban descent, made a joke about how he was confused all morning because he kept hearing there was another Cuban in the room.
That remark, as well as his overall speech calling for more rules for transfer agents and lamenting staff turnover at the SEC, won him praise from the Twitter handle @mcuban, which has more than 2 million followers.
“Love the fact that Commissioner Aguilar is CRUSHING the SEC on its turnover,” he Tweeted. “#I‘m liking this guy a lot.”
Later, on the sidelines of the event, Cuban spoke with reporters and said he has no plans for one-on-one conversations with top SEC officials.
“I am learning a lot. I appreciate being here,” he said. “I can’t be a critic or just be a commentator or even an informed observer if I don’t make an effort to observe.”
But in traditional Cuban fashion, he was also not shy about pointing out some flaws.
“It comes across a lot like a fundraising,” he said, in reference to comments by Chair White about the agency’s tight budget.
The SEC’s budget is deficit-neutral because it is off-set by fees, but the amount is still appropriated by Congress.
“It doesn’t come across as being very realistic because at no point do they ever say we made mistakes and we are going to re-evaluate where we allocate our resources,” he added.