Alabama has a great many image problems. Down here, we might say that we’re blessed with more image problems than we could ever say grace over. We’ve got all the images from the Civil Rights era of fire hoses and police dogs apparently permanently seared into the minds of the general populace. Our native politics have given rise to a litany of morons, the latest being Judge Roy Moore and his Ten Commandment’s crusade of a few years back. But really, does every last article on Alabama written by a national media outlet have to portray us as country-bumpkin yokels that fell off the turnip truck yesterday?
For reasons that aren’t clear to me, it seems New Yorkers, and thereby much of the national media, can’t help but accent their reports with things that fit their biased view of stereotypical Alabamians. Which is exactly what Jean Eaglesham did when reporting on Alabama’s Securities Commissioner, Joe Borg, in today’s Wall Street Journal:
MONTGOMERY, Ala.—Joseph Borg has never mounted his Kawasaki motorcycle in pursuit of a fraud figure. But Alabama’s securities commissioner once sent investigators by armored personnel carrier to close down a Florida church.
The 59-year-old regulator’s strategy for cracking down on financial crime is as straightforward as his recipe for making deep-fried Thanksgiving turkey in 42 minutes: Punish wrongdoers with hefty prison sentences and big financial firms with much bigger fines.
“You’ve got to have tougher sanctions for Wall Street,” he says in a barely veiled jab at the Securities and Exchange Commission and Financial Industry Regulatory Authority. Fines of just “several million dollars when a firm has made $100 million” leave the culprits “waving from their yachts on the Caribbean.”
Steve Gates for The Wall Street JournalREVVING IT UP: Regulators like Joseph Borg, in Alabama on Friday, will soon oversee investment advisers.
On the job for 16 years, Mr. Borg is a well-known tough guy among state securities regulators. He has a conviction rate of more than 95%, largely from cases involving mini-Madoff investment schemes, unregistered brokers and penny-stock firms. Because of death threats against him, armed guards are on duty at Mr. Borg’s office in downtown Montgomery, a short stroll from the first White House of the Confederacy.
Was it really necessary to picture Mr. Borg on a motorcycle? Was it necessary to mention his recipe for fried turkey? Did the reporter not understand that virtually every building in Montgomery is a short stroll from the first White House of the Confederacy? Does that have anything at all to do with the generally-agreed excellent job Mr. Borg has been doing in regulating security issuance and prosecuting malfeasance, or with securities regulation at all? I almost expected to hear of Mr. Borg’s skill with an adz (see William Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying for a poetic description of how the tool is used); of how he split the timber for his log cabin himself.
Ironically, Mr. Borg is from New York, having attended law school there. He came down to Alabama to make his fortune as a litigator, and stayed on after getting involved in the local banking industry. So maybe the article should have left off all the bumpkin stereotypes and portrayed him as a carpetbagger. At least then it may have had a more authentic Faulknerian tone.