What to Expect from the New SEC Chair

Article excerpt

In May, the White House announced that Harvey Pitt, a corporate attorney who helped facilitate last year's compromise between the SEC and the accounting profession over auditor independence, had been named to head the SEC. As of press time, Pitt's appointment awaits confirmation by the U.S. Senate.

If confirmed, Pitt, a Republican who served as general counsel of the SEC during the Carter administration, will replace Laura Unger, who has been serving as interim chair since February, when Arthur Levitt departed after eight years at the head of the agency. As a senior partner at the New York law firm of Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson, Pitt's clients include the AICPA and the Securities Industry Association.

Dan L. Goldwasser, a partner at Vedder, Price, Kaufman & Kammholz in New York City and a member of The CPA Journal editorial board, describes Pitt as, "in a word, brilliant. I knew him when he was general counsel at the SEC, where he earned the reputation for doing absolutely exhaustive work. His typical memo would be 150 pages long with 500 footnotes. He was probably the first SEC general counsel to employ the encyclopedic writing style that has come to be the model for current SEC releases.

"After leaving the post of general counsel at the SEC," Goldwasser continued, "Pitt went on to build an impressive law practice, primarily defending individuals and companies in class action suits and SEC enforcement proceedings. In addition, he wrote the original white paper on auditor independence that was published by the AICPA right after the Independence Standards Board [ISB] was formed. …