Stanley Sporking paces frantically He sits down, gets up, massages his bulding stomach. He rubs his eyes, sits down again, puts his feet upon the desk and closes his eyes. Hesitantly, glancing from time to time at Sporkin's reposing body, the high-powered high-priced corporate lawyer continues to present his case to Sporkin's youthful lieutenants.
Is Sporkin listening? Is he asleep? No one knows for sure just what the Securities and Exchange Commission's director of enforcement is doing during these moments.
But Wallace Timberg who is approciate director of enforcement and whose office is a couple of yards across from Sporkin's recalls ending a conference with a "big Wall Street lawyer whose presence is announced with rose petals in the market" by slapping the desk just to make sure his chief was awake.
"It was phenomenal" says Timmeny. "I thought Stanley was asleep but he came right back. 'Give me this. Give me that. I want affidavits proxy statements. Minutes of the board.' The lawyer is scribbling it all down crying 'Wait, Stanley, wait, wait , I didn't get that down.'"
At 45, Sporking, who has been described as both the Nero Wollfe and the Columbo of the SEC, has been a moving force behind the repeated disclosure of bribery and illegal payoffs by such corporations as Gulf Oil, Ashland Oil, Rockville International and [WORD ILLEGIBLE]. He is now under consideration for FBI director.
Heavy browed and sleepy-eyed with his tie slightly askew, Sporkin sets a furious pace in his work. A typical day includes several meetings with lawyers from corporations in the morning and an afternoon spent at the Federal Energy Administration where he is part of a task force to develop enforcement techniques for the new agency. Leaving the office at 6, he will take one, two, sometimes three full briefcases home to work again until 2 in the morning.
"Stanley sets the pace," says Timmeny," and it's always fast. He's a very exciting guy to be around because of the activity, but he never relaxes. I take him fishing sometimes and if it's trolling, he'll be up and down, wanting to discuss a case. Only if we do reel fishig where he can cast, then cast again, can I get him to stop talking shop."
Maybe the season relaxation comes so hard for Sporkin is that, with a relatively small staff of about 600, his division is in charge of overseeing the compliance of the nation's business community - 9,000 public companies, 3,500 brokerage houses, 3,700 investment advisers and 1,300 investment companies. Traditionally, the job has meant stopping fraudulent or manipulative stock transactions. But under Sporkin, who became the division's chief in 1975, enforcement's mandate has been interpreted to include pressuring companies to disclose the facts about bribes, kickbacks and illegal payoffs.
"The critical thing is to get our system to work like it should, as perfect as it should," Sporkin says, in between jumping up, sitting down, answering the phone and answering his aides' questions. "Our economic system is our asset, but the system may well fefeat itself when things like bribes are being accepted as the norm. Practically every one of our companies was involved, even the good ones."
Sporkin's crusading interpretation of his division's responsibility, particularly some of the methods used, often displeases the corporate legal lamas Milton V. Freeman, a senior partner of Arnold and Porter, who is an experienced adversary of the SEC, is one such skeptical admirer.
"I've had many wars with him over SEC procedures which I regard as unfair, but he is honest, sincere, able and decent, a credit to the public.
"I'd hate to see him leave the SEC, though, because right or wrong, he listens to and understands what the other fellow says. He may not always agree, but he listens."
Sporkin, however, credits his staff with the division's new, high profile. He calls his staff "the finest law firm in the country" and is known to support even the youngest lawyer when he thinks he or she is right. It's a method that instills loyalty in his lawyers, many of whom have been offered two and three times their SEC salaries with firms in the private sector. Richard Kraut, a 35-year-old assistant director who went to the SEC directly from law school and has been there 10 years, says, "Sporkin manages to have a way of holding on to you. He's probably the best salesman of all times. Then there's the action, the sense of responsibility and the degree of responsibility that you wouldn't have at this age in the private sector."
Sporkin is by Washington standards extraordinarly accessible to his staff. People are always knee-deep outside his office - a modest affair decorated with his wife's primary-colored paints and dominated by a rugged conference table. Staffers, one after another, sometimes together in twos and threes, whisk in to ask him questions, often interrupting lawyers come to plead the cases of corporate giants in mid-sentence. And the stories the staff delights in telling about Sporking are mythic.
"When I first came here, he was doing what he always does," says Timmeny, "running around the room madly. He always used to wear a green eyeshade. It made him look like an overweight Las Vegas dealer. And he can sound like Bob Newhart when he's on the phone. He'll say 'He's taking bribes from the Arabs? How do you know he's taking bribes from the Arabs? There's an Oriental carpet on the floor. You recognize the pattern as being from Saudi Arabia? Okay,'" dingbat.
Sporkin grew up in Philadelphia, one of four children of Common Pleas Court Judge Maurice W. Sporkin. It is from childhood visits to City Hall court, where his father was an assitant district attorney for 20 years before becoming a judge, that Sporkin says his vocation comes. He went to Penn State and than Yale Law School and joined the SEC in 1961. All of the people who have influenced his life - his father, certain judges and attorneys, his SEC mentor and former boss, Irving Pollack - Sporkin says have been men of principle. These associations didn't give him a chance to "get sullied."
Though he spent time in private practice as a law clerk in Delaware and then practiced law in Washington for a year, Sporkin was unhappy in the private sector.
"I always found clients were interested in getting as close to the edge of the law, one leg dangling over the line. If you didn't do it, they'd say there was always a guy down the street who had done it for a friend. There seemed to be something wrong with that kind of atmosphere, to lend your God-given talents to that. I was troubled, which made me question my own judgment. Maybe there was something wrong with me."
"He really typifies the SEC at its best," says Pollack, now an SEC commissioner. "He runs a vital, vibrant shop.
"He's despotic, offensive many times, but he's instilled a little morality in the business community," says a frequent opponent, New York lawyer Martin Gould.
During the Nixon administration, SEC Chairman William Casey repeated a request from former Commerce Secretary Maurice Stans not to push for testimony from Robert Vesco's secretaries, who knew of a $200,000 contribution to Nixon which would be "politically embarrassing."
Sporkin refused and later testified that he told Casey, "Some day you are going to be thankful for relying on my judgment in this matter."
At his home in Chevy Chase, a structure that imitates its neighbors in modest comfort, Sporkin recalls that particular time in his life with distaste. "Nobody has ever tried to bribe me to my face," he says, "but in that case, some detectives were hired to see if they could find some dirt. There were even reports that they were doing it from helicopters."
That was an invasion of Sporkin's privacy, something he takes seriously. He also takes his family responsibility seriously, spending Saturday with his two sons doing chores around the house and being with his artist wife, Judy, whose paintings decorate the brightly decorated interior. (A daughter is away at college). Sporking speaks philsosphically about the possible FBI job as he sits in the family living room while the family poodle darts back and forth from the kitchen where his wife is making tea.
"One thing I've always tried to do is maintain my independence," he says, noting that he'd turned down someone from Philadelphia who had approached him about running for public office. "I didn't apply for the (FBI) job, and I was very surprised to hear that I was being considered."
If the directorship comes up though Sporkin has definite ideas about the way the agency should be run.
"I want to take the hypocrisy out of our society. We've got to treat everybody equally, not kick the hell out of the little guy. Everybody always criticizes government when it doesn't work, but government can work. I've seen it in enforcement, in a little shop."