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The S.E.C.’s Document Destruction Problem

The revelation that the Securities and Exchange Commission had a history of destroying documents has once again raised questions about how well the agency has exercised its enforcement authority.

Although Matt Taibbi in Rolling Stone described the policy as “Orwellian,” the practice looks more like corner cutting to avoid cumbersome federal regulations on document disposal — the very type of conduct that the S.E.C. often criticizes companies for when it pursues an enforcement action.