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Fri, Jun 03, 2005 - Page 12 News List

Top Republican to assume SEC helm

BIG SHOES The outgoing chief of the regulatory body made his mark by restoring investor confidence by cracking down in the wake of corporate corruption scandals


Moving quickly to fill a high-profile regulatory vacancy, US President George W. Bush intends to nominate Representative Christopher Cox to chair the Securities and Exchange Commission, according to Republican officials.

Cox, a California Republican and a conservative veteran of 16 years in Congress with wide-ranging policy interests, would succeed William Donaldson, who announced Wednesday he was stepping down on June 30 after a two-year tenure marked by efforts to restore investor confidence in markets shaken by corporate excess. Donaldson was an activist who often clashed with traditional business allies. They chafed over what they perceived as an excessive regulatory zeal during his tenure.

Cox would be the second House Republican picked this spring for a top administration post. Rob Portman was an Ohio congressman before his confirmation as US Trade Representative in late April.

The officials who disclosed Bush's intention to nominate Cox did so on condition of anonymity, saying the White House was expected to make a public announcement yesterday.

Cox, 52, is chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, and a veteran of the Financial Services Committee. The holder of a business and a law degree, he has voted for legislation to make it easier for companies to defend against securities fraud lawsuits.

Cox supported the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002, Congress' response to financial scandals at Enron Corp, WorldCom Inc and other large companies. The law ordered the most far-reaching changes in corporate accountability since the Depression, imposing stiff new rules on companies and their top executives.

He also is a longtime advocate of repealing taxes on capital gains as well as on dividends.

The SEC position is subject to Senate confirmation.

In his announcement, Donaldson cited family reasons and denied he was stepping down because of disagreements with Republicans over commission decisions. He had sided with the two Democrats on the five-member panel on rules in such areas as stock market trading, hedge funds and mutual funds.

Donaldson, just shy of his 74th birthday, said he hoped "there will be no legalistic rollback of any of these key items." He predicted the next chairman "will leave politics at the door."

In a letter to Bush, Donaldson cited the tireless work of SEC employees and said the past two years "may well be remembered as the most consequential and productive period in the commission's history."

In turn, Bush wished him well.

Bush turned to Donaldson, a Republican and family friend, in 2003 to replace the embattled Harvey Pitt, whom administration officials forced out after a series of political missteps.

Donaldson helped implement the Sarbanes-Oxley Act. He also won approval at the SEC for a number of rules designed to clean up the US$7 trillion mutual fund industry.

Donaldson last month won SEC approval for a plan to overhaul stock trading. He joined with the Democrats on the commission as the two Republican commissioners objected to the new rules.

Under the proposal, known as the "trade-through" rule, stock brokers will be required to accept the best quoted price for any transaction, no matter which market it came from.

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