Five years ago, the world economy melted down. About four and a half years ago, an outcry began in earnest for the SEC to track down and bring cases against the people and institutions responsible for the meltdown. How's that going?

The Wall Street Journal today reviews the SEC's record of recession-related enforcement actions over the past five years. Their tally: 138 firms and individuals charged, $2.7 billion in fines collected. Not bad, on its face, until you set it against the backdrop of a multi-trillion-dollar evaporation of wealth.

The real news: this is not the beginning of the prosecutions; it is almost the end. Settlements are declining each year. What's happened is probably most of what will happen.

"We're at the outer end of credit-crisis cases," SEC co-chief of enforcement George Canellos said this summer...

The SEC aims to bring at least one more case involving collateralized debt obligations—investments based on cash-generating assets like mortgages that were pooled and sold in slices—before they wrap up their crisis enforcement work, according to people close to the agency.

No major banks or major banking executives were truly laid low by enforcements. The SEC, though, is not really the villain here. History may record that the real scandal was how much of the shit that destroyed the global economy was perfectly legal.

[WSJ. Photo: AP]