The Securities and Exchange Commission yesterday dismissed disciplinary proceedings against two New York attorneys who had been charged with aiding and abetting willful violations of securities laws, and spelled out standards to apply in such cases in the future.
The SEC dismissed the findings of an administrative law judge who had held that attorneys William R. Carter and Charles Johnson, Jr. failed to meet ethical and professional standards in their 1974 and 1975 dealings with National Telephone Co. Inc., saying that the standards at the time were not developed sufficiently to back up the judge's decision.
The proceedings involve the SEC's controversial rule 2(E), which has been used to discipline professionals who appear before it. The American Bar Association has protested such discipline vigorously.
While noting that "the traditional role of the lawyer as counselor is to advise his client -- not the public -- about the law," the commission said that if a lawyer violates standards or consciously participates in violating securities laws, "it will not do to say that because the lawyer's duty is to his client alone, this commission must stand helplessly by," the SEC said in its opinion.
The 1970 amendments to rule 2(E) allow the SEC to deny a professional the privilege of appearing or practicing before it for willful violations or aiding and abetting violations of securities laws.