A Dec. 21 front-page article reported that Stephen M. Cutler, enforcement director at the Securities and Exchange Commission, dismissed complaints that the fines on Wall Street firms, which made $58 billion in pretax profit in 2000 (according to the Securities Industry Association), amounted to a slap on the wrist. "I don't think you can call $1.4 billion a slap on the wrist," he said. "It will be felt very seriously by the firms."

That's nonsense if I ever heard it. It is like punishing a bank robber by fining him 1 percent of the take but letting him keep the rest and putting him on a plane to Bermuda. Nobody is going to jail, and everyone is keeping what he ripped off. Now that's the way to build investor confidence.

The regulators who signed this deal should be sitting in jail along with the thieves. It's an embarrassment that any conscious person can see through. Best of all, it was announced on the Saturday before Christmas when hardly anyone was listening.

It's the government's "Merry Christmas" to Wall Street and its CEOs.

DOUGLAS LIDSTONE

Manchester, N.H.

*

I'm touched.

Marc E. Lackritz, president of the Securities Industry Association, said: "This historic settlement shows the deep commitment of our industry to implement the tough solutions needed to help restore public trust and confidence in our capital markets" ["Wall Street Firms to Pay $1 Billion to End Probes," front page, Dec. 20].

Where were Mr. Lackritz and his association while formerly respected member firms on Wall Street were "pillaging and raping" Main Street and the small investor during the past several years?

Setting aside a portion of the fines to reimburse the public for its losses won't even come close to the amount of money people have lost. Nothing less than full disclosure of the egregious crimes committed by these firms will provide the investing public with the information it needs to have its day in court.

THEODORE J. COHEN

Alexandria