A column in yesterday's Federal Report gave an incorrect first name for departing Securities and Exchange Commission member James C. Treadway, Jr.
The Securities and Exchange Commission is urging the stock exchanges and over-the-counter markets to handle more of the rising number of complaints from investors that their accounts have been churned.
Churning is when an unethical broker buys and sells an excessive number of stocks, often to the detriment of the customer, just to increase his commissions. As the volume of trading has increased, there has been a steady rise in the number of complaints alleging churning.
SEC Chairman John S.R. Shad acknowledged Wednesday to Sen. Jim Sasser (D-Tenn.) that his agency is pursuing only big cases because it thinks that it can increase its impact that way. Going after a case involving one broker in a branch office is like "using a cannon when a fly swatter would do," Shad said. So, he said, the SEC is leaving the task up to the industry's self-regulatory organizations, which, in some cases, have more examiners than the SEC does. The agency will continue to spot-check the examiners' work.
ENFORCEMENT STAFF . . . A General Accounting Office study released last month said the SEC had decreased its enforcement staff even though the agency's funding was increased. It noted that from 1977-83, the budget of the Enforcement Division had increased 47 percent, while the overall agency's budget had increased 59 percent. During that time, the staff of the Enforcement Division decreased from 633 to 610.
Shad responded that the report was in error and that enforcement had actually been reduced less than all other activities. He also said that despite budget cuts, 57 more enforcement actions were brought last year than in the year before. He speculated that the GAO counted field personnel in its enforcement tally, explaining that these employes often are moved temporarily from the Enforcement Division to other areas.
CRACKING SWISS BANKS? . . . A Swiss delegation recently met with SEC officials to discuss the nuts and bolts of working together to enforce securities laws. Among topics on the agenda was "waiver by conduct," a concept whereby foreigners who buy U.S. securities would have to accept the jurisdiction of U.S. securities laws, said to be the world's strictest. In practical terms for the Swiss, it would mean that when the SEC suspects a violation, such as insider trading, Swiss banks would have to reveal the names of customers for whom they bought stock.
Former enforcement chief John M. Fedders made several trips to Switzerland to try to sell the idea, but was rebuffed. The Swiss, now considering insider-trading legislation of their own, are opposed to waiver by conduct, viewing it as an infringement on Swiss sovereignty. Swiss sources said the conference here did not change any minds.
Gary G. Lynch, the SEC's acting enforcement chief, said the reaction here and abroad has been "overwhelmingly negative." He added that no action is imminent but that the proposal has awakened the world to the problem.
COMMISSION VACANCY . . . Charles C. Treadway Jr. put in his final day this week after 2 1/2 years as an SEC commissioner. He will become a partner in the Washington office of the Houston law firm of Baker & Botts. His counsel, William Y. Fowler IV, will join the firm as an associate. According to Washington sources, the leading candidate to replace Treadway is Michael J. Halloran, an attorney with the San Francisco firm of Pillsbury, Madison & Sutrow. He is a practicing securities lawyer specializing in venture capital.