The Securities and Exchange Commission is going after two very big fish. On Thursday, the agency accused Samuel Wyly and Charles Wyly of "using secret overseas accounts to reap more than $550 million in profit through illegal stock trades." According to the government, the brothers set up an elaborate network of accounts in the Cayman Islands and the Isle of Man that were used to trade stock in public companies the brothers served on as board members. The Wyly brothers are Texas billionaires who have lavished their vast wealth  on a slew of Republican politicians. Here's what we know about them and the SEC complaint:

  • This Is Potentially Huge, writes Edward Wyatt in the New York Times: "If the S.E.C. is successful in proving all of its allegations, it could result in one of the biggest judgments ever in a securities fraud case. The commission is seeking disgorgement of the $550 million in gains and prejudgment interest and financial penalties."
  • These Guys Owned the GOP, writes Marcus Baram at The Huffington Post: "Charles and Samuel Wyly, along with their wives, have donated $2.5 million to more than 200 Republican candidates and committees over the past 20 years, including over $1.3 million to the Republican National Committee, according to an analysis by the Center for Responsive Politics. The top recipients of their largesse have been Texas Republicans. George W. Bush received at least $100,000 raised by the Wyly clan during the 2000 presidential election. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchinson has received $30,400 from the family; Rep. Pete Sessions, $29,000. Other Republican senators who've received their donations include John Cornyn of Texas, Sam Brownback of Kansas, Judd Gregg of New Hampshire, John Thune of South Dakota and Kit Bond of Missouri. Sam Wyly also funded the Swift Boat campaign that torpedoed Massachusetts Democrat John Kerry's 2004 presidential campaign."
  • They'll Likely Be Shunned, writes Numerian at The Agonist: "In the corporate world, what makes these allegations jaw-dropping is the betrayal they represent of a director's fundamental ethical responsibility to serve the interests of the company and the shareholders who own it. The Wyly's were secretly selling stock in the companies they were publicly supporting as directors, an activity that will likely make them pariahs in the clubby world of executives and wealthy investors who are selected to serve on the boards of major companies."
  • Sam Wyly Backed the Swiftboat Ads, recalls Joe Weisenthal at Business Insider:

  • More Forbes Billionaires Behaving Badly, sighs Luisa Kroll at Forbes: "Unfortunately it is not the first - nor will it be the last - time a member of our Forbes 400 list of richest Americans runs into trouble with the law. Sometimes it works out okay. All charges against Broadcom's Henry Nicholas, who could have faced up to a potential 360 years in prison for 21 counts of options backdating and 4 counts of drug conspiracy, were dropped in January on the basis of prosecutorial misconduct. Some billionaires like A. Alfred Taubman and Michael Milken spent time behind bars and are now back to their lives and back on our rich list. Then there is fellow Texan Allan Stanford who sits in a Texas cell awaiting his 2011 trial on 21 criminal charges of defrauding investors."
  • The SEC Is Alive Again! writes Ashby Jones at The Wall Street Journal: "If Mary Schapiro’s Securities & Exchange Commission has adopted a strategy for helping people forget about the missed opportunity that was Bernie Madoff, it might be this: create more opportunities. Preferably high-profile, Goldman Sachs-type opportunities." David Dayen at FireDogLake agrees: "There does seem to be a resurrection of activity from the SEC under the new leadership of Mary Schapiro. It’s certainly more aggressive than the Chris Cox years."