SEC Chairman Harvey Pitt received a standing ovation this morning after his speech to the Securities Industry Association’s annual convention in Boca Raton, Fla. The chairman, who resigned on election night, introduced his speech saying, that anyone who thought he wouldn’t make an appearance on the dais as scheduled at the industry’s annual event, took a "sucker’s bet."
Pitt told the audience, some 400-plus brokerage executives, that "Congress can legislate new legal standards . . . But in the end, it’s incumbent upon the private sector–you who are responsible for making our markets function–to ensure you meet and exceed the highest standards for professional conduct."
Pitt praised the work of his staff at the SEC and said that he resigned because the "turmoil surrounding my chairmanship makes it very difficult for the commissioners and staff to perform critical assignments." Pitt, who didn’t acknowledge any wrongdoing on his part, claimed that he was the victim of partisan politics. "I hope my successor isn’t greeted with the same climate of attack and partisanship," he said.
"Real Americans who invest their blood, sweat and tears to amass a share of the American dream, are only helped when we work together, constructively, to solve problems," he said. "President Bush has worked hard to change the tone in Washington. On Tuesday, voters clearly rejected the existing climate of negativity in favor of this approach."
Pitt recounted accomplishments in his year at the helm, saying that the SEC was "in court with fraud charges against WorldCom within 24 hours of the company’s restatement, and won a freeze on executive bonuses and departure compensation within 72 hours. That meant more money for investors and creditors. And we’re doing that in scores of cases." Pitt also said, "Last fall, we launched the most aggressive reform agenda in our history." He also said the SEC was integral in helping the exchanges open Sept. 17 last year, and had, in general, worked to help make markets more accountable to investors.
In his speech, Pitt also compared Wall Streeters to physicians. "Similar to the securities industry, doctors confront a surfeit of laws, regulations and codes of ethics, designed to make them act the way we expect and want them to act." He also quoted Charles Schwab, Teddy Roosevelt and Carl Sewell, a Dallas Cadillac dealer.