After battles over financial bill, SEC reaches out to business executives

By Zachary A. Goldfarb
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Securities and Exchange Commission Chairman Mary L. Schapiro extended an olive branch to the business community on Tuesday but urged executives not to fight regulators crafting the myriad new rules required under the financial overhaul enacted last week.

"The regulatory process is not designed to re-debate issues that Congress has resolved," Schapiro told a conference at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

The chamber, which represents Wall Street and companies both large and small across the country, opposed many of the provisions in the Dodd-Frank Act. In many of those fights, the chamber lost out.

But Schapiro on Tuesday promised that the SEC would seek to include the chamber and other members of the public in a lengthy comment period on the new rules the SEC is required to write in the coming year.

The agency has previously faced criticism that it does not pay enough attention to outside comments, particularly those from the business community, when drafting financial regulations.

The SEC has already taken the unusual step of beginning to collect comments before officially proposing any rules, posting on its Web site a list of possible rules and ways that members of the public can offer their thoughts.

"Because of the significant rulemaking envisioned under the act, we are expanding our process beyond what is legally required," Schapiro said. "The idea is to offer maximum opportunity for public comment and to provide greater transparency."

Schapiro also sought to reassure business leaders that the agency's staff would seek to meet with them, but warned that the topics discussed at any meeting would be publicized on the agency's Web site.

To comply with Dodd-Frank, the SEC is required to develop more rules and complete more studies than any other regulator. It must write regulations governing the multibillion-dollar derivatives market, study whether brokerages must meet higher business standards, begin to inspect hedge funds, write many rules describing what companies must disclose to their shareholders and tighten oversight of the credit-rating industry.

In remarks introducing Schapiro, David Hirschmann, a senior vice president of the Chamber of Commerce, said the business community will seek to play a large role in shaping the rollout of the new law.

"While it is widely agreed that there were many changes necessary to the financial system, the chamber has been consistent in our concerns that this new law will not address the core issues and that the new mandates will have long-term consequences as regulators set out to fill those directives before them," he said.

Steve Bartlett, who represents the largest financial companies in the United States as head of the Financial Services Roundtable, said the industry hears Schapiro's message. "We accept our responsibility for getting it right and getting it done," he said in an interview. "This is the law of the land. A month ago we had opinions about various segments of it, and now we have to roll up our sleeves and get it right."

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