Securities and Exchange Commission Historical Society

Regulating the Regulators: The Executive Branch and the SEC, 1981-2008

William Clinton Administration

Levitt Commission

December 12, 1995 SEC Commission with Division Directors and Office Heads

President William J. Clinton, who had campaigned as a new kind of Democrat, nominated Arthur Levitt, former Chairman of the American Stock Exchange, as SEC Chairman.  Levitt would lead the SEC throughout Clinton’s two terms, becoming the longest-serving SEC Chairman to date.

President Clinton’s hands-off approach to the SEC “showed respect for the independence of the agency.” In turn, Levitt was committed to a Commission that was “apolitical from the beginning” and “ruthless in terms of committing to a non-political environment.”  Levitt himself was viewed as “the most politically astute Chairman, certainly in the modern era of the SEC.  On difficult issues, he had a capacity to deal with people who ideologically were completely opposed to a perspective he had, or an initiative he wanted, and he could bring them around in a way that was remarkable.”45

Levitt began by reaching out to SEC staff. “I spent an inordinate amount of time with each key staffer.  I met with them, I went to their offices, I consulted with them.  I waged a campaign to win them over.  I spoke about them as patriots, underpaid and overworked.  I did everything humanly possible to win their confidence.”  Many who worked with him returned his esteem. “Working with Arthur Levitt was one of the great pleasures of my professional life.  Arthur was an extraordinarily effective Chairman.  He has remarkable leadership skills, immense concern about investor protection and the integrity of our financial markets, admirable courage, and unmatched practical insight and wisdom.”46

Levitt’s approach was to set goals and to encourage both staff and the industry to suggest ways that they could be achieved.  During his Chairmanship, the SEC helped to reform the regulation of municipal finance, protect the independence of the accounting standard setting process and of auditors, and improve the quality of financial reporting through Regulation FD.47   His Commission colleagues recognized his impact.  Richard Roberts recalled, “[Chairman Levitt] really changed market structure probably more than any Chairman in modern history,” while Steven Wallman noted, “In terms of the municipal securities areas, Chairman Levitt’s efforts were extraordinarily laudable.”  Laura Unger remembered, “Arthur was pretty ahead on [auditor independence].  I wasn’t as focused on what he was doing with his speeches – finding the accounting issues incredibly dull, quite honestly.  But when I read it in context now, I have to give him a pat on the back for that.”48

The SEC staff also saw the initiatives he encouraged.  Robert Plaze noted, “If I think back to the Arthur Levitt years, what I think of mostly is how the Commission at a very early stage hitched itself to the Internet.  He recognized before I think anybody else at the Commission did, how important this was going to be, and took steps to upgrade and modernize the laws to accommodate this.”  For Susan Wyderko, it was the Plain English initiative. “He would award gobbledygook awards periodically to something that someone had picked out of a disclosure that was just incomprehensible.  He was using his bully pulpit as a force for good.”  Paul Roye remembered, “Chairman Levitt was always out meeting with investors.  He did town hall meetings and he could hear firsthand from investors what they were concerned about.”49

In 1994, the Republican Party gained control of both houses of Congress for the first time since the 1950s, leading to budget impasses between Congress and the Clinton Administration and resulting in Federal government shutdowns in both 1995 and 1996.   In 1995, Congress enacted the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act, despite SEC opposition and President Clinton’s veto.   A larger issue was the on-going effort to repeal the 1933 Glass-Steagall Act.  Repeal supporters in Congress saw an opportunity to connect their aspiration to make American banking globally more competitive with the Clinton Administration’s goal to expand housing for middle and low-income Americans.  In the legislative efforts leading to the passage of the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act in 1999 repealing Glass-Steagall, the SEC worked to retain its power to regulate securities activities, while bank depository activities would be handled by banking regulators.50

Before departing the SEC with the end of the Clinton Administration, Levitt issued a warning to staff. “Arthur Levitt, I remember him saying in staff meetings, ‘Aren’t you guys worried?  This is just crazy stuff.  People are saying it’s the new economy and who worried about cash flow and whether you make money or not?  It’s all something different.’” Looking back, Levitt concluded, “I was the luckiest Chairman in the history of the Commission.”51


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Related Museum Resources

Galleries

The Municipal Securities Rulemaking Board Gallery on Municipal Securities Regulation
The Richard C. Adkerson Gallery on the SEC Role in Accounting Standards Setting
The Center for Audit Quality Gallery on Corporate Governance
The Mechanics of Legislation: Congress, the SEC and Financial Regulation
Fair To All People: The SEC and the Regulation of Insider Trading
Chasing the Devil Around the Stump: Securities Regulation, the SEC and the Courts
The Institution of Experience: Self-Regulatory Organizations in the Securities Industry, 1792-2010

Papers

August 31, 1993
image pdf (Courtesy of David B.H. Martin)
October 18, 1993
transcript pdf (With permission of Arthur Levitt Papers, Columbia University in the City of New York)
October 18, 1993
transcript pdf (With permission of Arthur Levitt Papers, Columbia University in the City of New York)
November 1993
image pdf (Courtesy of FINRA)
November 30, 1993
image pdf (JT Ball Collection, University of Mississippi)
January 10, 1994
image pdf (JT Ball Collection, University of Mississippi)
January 12, 1994
transcript pdf (JT Ball Collection, University of Mississippi)
February 11, 1994
image pdf (Courtesy of Stuart Kaswell)
March 9, 1994
transcript pdf (With permission of Arthur Levitt Papers, Columbia University in the City of New York)
March 10, 1994
image pdf (With permission of Arthur Levitt Papers, Columbia University in the City of New York)
March 25, 1994
image pdf (Anonymous)
April 6, 1994
image pdf (With permission of Arthur Levitt Papers, Columbia University in the City of New York)
April 9, 1994
image pdf (Anonymous)
April 13, 1994
image pdf (JT Ball Collection, University of Mississippi)
April 21, 1994
image pdf (Courtesy of Stuart Kaswell)
April 28, 1994
image pdf (Anonymous)
April 28, 1994
transcript pdf (JT Ball Collection, University of Mississippi)
April 29, 1994
image pdf (Anonymous)
May 1994
image pdf (Anonymous)
May 6, 1994
image pdf (With permission of Arthur Levitt Papers, Columbia University in the City of New York)
May 10, 1994
image pdf (Anonymous)
May 25, 1994
image pdf (Anonymous)
July 20, 1994
image pdf (Anonymous)
September 12, 1994
image pdf (Anonymous)
October 25, 1994
image pdf (Courtesy of Carrie E. Dwyer)
November 3, 1994
image pdf (With permission of Arthur Levitt Papers, Columbia University in the City of New York)
November 10, 1994
image pdf (With permission of Arthur Levitt Papers, Columbia University in the City of New York)
December 8, 1994
image pdf (With permission of Arthur Levitt Papers, Columbia University in the City of New York)
December 23, 1994
image pdf (Courtesy of Carrie E. Dwyer)
January 10, 1995
image pdf (With permission of Arthur Levitt Papers, Columbia University in the City of New York)
January 12, 1995
image pdf (Anonymous)
January 23, 1995
image pdf (With permission of Arthur Levitt Papers, Columbia University in the City of New York)
February 6, 1995
image pdf (With permission of Arthur Levitt Papers, Columbia University in the City of New York)
February 10, 1995
image pdf (With permission of Arthur Levitt Papers, Columbia University in the City of New York)
February 14, 1995
image pdf (With permission of Arthur Levitt Papers, Columbia University in the City of New York)
March 14, 1995
transcript pdf (With permission of Arthur Levitt Papers, Columbia University in the City of New York)
March 27, 1995
image pdf (Courtesy of Margaret Bancroft)
March 30, 1995
image pdf (Courtesy of Margaret Bancroft)
April 10, 1995
image pdf (Courtesy of Margaret Bancroft)
May 1, 1995
image pdf (With permission of Arthur Levitt Papers, Columbia University in the City of New York)
May 10, 1995
transcript pdf (With permission of Arthur Levitt Papers, Columbia University in the City of New York)
June 5, 1995
transcript pdf (With permission of Arthur Levitt Papers, Columbia University in the City of New York)
June 13, 1995
image pdf (With permission of Arthur Levitt Papers, Columbia University in the City of New York)
June 19, 1995
image pdf (With permission of Arthur Levitt Papers, Columbia University in the City of New York)
June 20, 1995
image pdf (With permission of Arthur Levitt Papers, Columbia University in the City of New York)
August 16, 1995
image pdf (With permission of Arthur Levitt Papers, Columbia University in the City of New York)
August 21, 1995
image pdf (With permission of Arthur Levitt Papers, Columbia University in the City of New York)
August 22, 1995
image pdf (With permission of Arthur Levitt Papers, Columbia University in the City of New York)
August 25, 1995
image pdf (With permission of Arthur Levitt Papers, Columbia University in the City of New York)
September 21, 1995
image pdf (With permission of Arthur Levitt Papers, Columbia University in the City of New York)
October 16, 1995
image pdf (Courtesy of Stuart J. Kaswell)
November 28, 1995
image pdf (Anonymous)
December 1, 1995
image pdf (JT Ball Collection, University of Mississippi)
1996
image pdf (Courtesy of Carrie E. Dwyer)
February 26, 1996
image pdf (With permission of Arthur Levitt Papers, Columbia University in the City of New York)
April 15, 1996
image pdf (With permission of Arthur Levitt Papers, Columbia University in the City of New York)
April 17, 1996
image pdf (With permission of Arthur Levitt Papers, Columbia University in the City of New York)
April 22, 1996
image pdf (JT Ball Collection, University of Mississippi)
April 24, 1996
image pdf (With permission of Arthur Levitt Papers, Columbia University in the City of New York)
May 8, 1996
transcript pdf (With permission of Arthur Levitt Papers, Columbia University in the City of New York)
May 20, 1996
image pdf (JT Ball Collection, University of Mississippi)
May 21, 1996
image pdf (JT Ball Collection, University of Mississippi)
June 5, 1996
image pdf (Courtesy of Stuart J. Kaswell)
June 6, 1996
image pdf (JT Ball Collection, University of Mississippi)
June 7, 1996
transcript pdf (With permission of Arthur Levitt Papers, Columbia University in the City of New York)
July 31, 1996
transcript pdf (Anonymous)
August 8, 1996
image pdf (Courtesy of Carrie E. Dwyer)
September 13, 1996
transcript pdf (Anonymous)
January 9, 1997
image pdf (With permission of Arthur Levitt Papers, Columbia University in the City of New York)
January 9, 1997
transcript pdf (With permission of Arthur Levitt Papers, Columbia University in the City of New York)
March 14, 1997
image pdf (With permission of Arthur Levitt Papers, Columbia University in the City of New York)
March 21, 1997
transcript pdf (With permission of Arthur Levitt Papers, Columbia University in the City of New York)
April 3, 1997
image pdf (With permission of Arthur Levitt Papers, Columbia University in the City of New York)
April 15, 1997
image pdf (With permission of Arthur Levitt Papers, Columbia University in the City of New York)
April 21, 1997
image pdf (With permission of Arthur Levitt Papers, Columbia University in the City of New York)
May 2, 1997
image pdf (With permission of Arthur Levitt Papers, Columbia University in the City of New York)
June 26, 1997
transcript pdf (With permission of Arthur Levitt Papers, Columbia University in the City of New York)
August 29, 1997
image pdf (With permission of Arthur Levitt Papers, Columbia University in the City of New York)
October 8, 1997
image pdf (Courtesy of David S. Ruder)
March 12, 1998
image pdf (With permission of Arthur Levitt Papers, Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Columbia University in the City of New York)
July 30, 1998
image pdf (Courtesy of the William J. Clinton Presidential Library)
September 28, 1998
image pdf (With permission of Arthur Levitt Papers, Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Columbia University in the City of New York)
December 8, 1998
image pdf (With permission of Arthur Levitt Papers, Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Columbia University in the City of New York)
April 22, 1999
image pdf (With permission of Arthur Levitt Papers, Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Columbia University in the City of New York)
April 29, 1999
transcript pdf (Courtesy of the William J. Clinton Presidential Library & Museum)
June 29, 1999
image pdf (With permission of Arthur Levitt Papers, Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Columbia University in the City of New York)
January 6, 2000
image pdf (With permission of Arthur Levitt Papers, Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Columbia University in the City of New York)
February 10, 2000
image pdf (With permission of Arthur Levitt Papers, Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Columbia University in the City of New York)
April 17, 2000
image pdf (With permission of Arthur Levitt Papers, Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Columbia University in the City of New York)
May 2, 2000
image pdf (With permission of Arthur Levitt Papers, Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Columbia University in the City of New York)
May 10, 2000
image pdf (With permission of Arthur Levitt Papers, Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Columbia University in the City of New York)
May 10, 2000
image pdf (With permission of Arthur Levitt Papers, Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Columbia University in the City of New York)
May 18, 2000
image pdf (With permission of Arthur Levitt Papers, Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Columbia University in the City of New York)
May 24, 2000
image pdf (With permission of Arthur Levitt Papers, Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Columbia University in the City of New York)
May 24, 2000
image pdf (With permission of Arthur Levitt Papers, Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Columbia University in the City of New York)
May 25, 2000
image pdf (With permission of Arthur Levitt Papers, Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Columbia University in the City of New York)
May 31, 2000
image pdf (With permission of Arthur Levitt Papers, Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Columbia University in the City of New York)
June 27, 2000
image pdf (With permission of Arthur Levitt Papers, Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Columbia University in the City of New York)
June 28, 2000
image pdf (With permission of Arthur Levitt Papers, Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Columbia University in the City of New York)
July 17, 2000
image pdf (With permission of Arthur Levitt Papers, Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Columbia University in the City of New York)
July 17, 2000
image pdf (With permission of Arthur Levitt Papers, Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Columbia University in the City of New York)
July 17, 2000
image pdf (With permission of Arthur Levitt Papers, Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Columbia University in the City of New York)
July 18, 2000
transcript pdf (Courtesy of George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum)
July 20, 2000
image pdf (With permission of Arthur Levitt Papers, Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Columbia University in the City of New York)
July 21, 2000
transcript pdf (Courtesy of George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum)
July 21, 2000
transcript pdf (Courtesy of George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum)
July 26, 2000
image pdf (With permission of Arthur Levitt Papers, Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Columbia University in the City of New York)
July 26, 2000
image pdf (With permission of Arthur Levitt Papers, Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Columbia University in the City of New York)
July 26, 2000
image pdf (With permission of Arthur Levitt Papers, Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Columbia University in the City of New York)
July 28, 2000
transcript pdf (Courtesy of George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum)
August 2, 2000
transcript pdf (Courtesy of George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum)
September 13, 2000
image pdf (With permission of Arthur Levitt Papers, Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Columbia University in the City of New York)
September 13, 2000
image pdf (With permission of Arthur Levitt Papers, Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Columbia University in the City of New York)
September 18, 2000
image pdf (With permission of Arthur Levitt Papers, Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Columbia University in the City of New York)
September 20, 2000
image pdf (With permission of Arthur Levitt Papers, Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Columbia University in the City of New York)
September 20, 2000
image pdf (With permission of Arthur Levitt Papers, Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Columbia University in the City of New York)
September 22, 2000
image pdf (With permission of Arthur Levitt Papers, Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Columbia University in the City of New York)
September 26, 2000
image pdf (With permission of Arthur Levitt Papers, Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Columbia University in the City of New York)
September 28, 2000
image pdf (With permission of Arthur Levitt Papers, Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Columbia University in the City of New York)
September 28, 2000
image pdf (With permission of Arthur Levitt Papers, Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Columbia University in the City of New York)
October 4, 2000
image pdf (With permission of Arthur Levitt Papers, Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Columbia University in the City of New York)
October 6, 2000
image pdf (With permission of Arthur Levitt Papers, Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Columbia University in the City of New York)
October 25, 2000
image pdf (With permission of Arthur Levitt Papers, Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Columbia University in the City of New York)
November 2, 2000
image pdf (With permission of Arthur Levitt Papers, Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Columbia University in the City of New York)
November 3, 2000
image pdf (With permission of Arthur Levitt Papers, Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Columbia University in the City of New York)
December 5, 2000
image pdf (With permission of Arthur Levitt Papers, Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Columbia University in the City of New York)
December 12, 2000
image pdf (With permission of Arthur Levitt Papers, Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Columbia University in the City of New York)
December 22, 2000
transcript pdf (With permission of Arthur Levitt Papers, Columbia University in the City of New York)
June 2, 2004
document pdf (prepared for the museum by Arthur Levitt)

Oral Histories

08 January 2010

Brandon Becker

21 May 2015

David Becker

18 April 2011

Dennis Beresford

09 March 2006

Matthew Fink

06 July 2012

Kathryn Fulton

17 June 2013

Harvey Goldschmid

21 July 2015

Isaac Hunt

20 June 2013

Arthur Levitt

25 April 2014

Paul Maco - Part I

12 May 2014

Paul Maco - Part II

29 April 2015

Juan Marcelino

01 July 2013

David B.H. Martin

24 June 2015

James McConnell

05 March 2012

William McLucas

08 May 2013

John Olson

07 June 2016

Robert Plaze

15 May 2014

Richard Roberts

12 June 2007

Alan Rosenblat

21 June 2016

Paul Roye

14 February 2006

Walter Schuetze

29 April 2015

Erik Sirri

14 June 2005

Michael Sutton

16 June 2005

Lynn Turner

07 November 2005

Laura Unger

14 May 2015

Richard Walker

15 May 2015

Steven Wallman

29 April 2016

Susan Wyderko

Programs

June 4, 2015

The Remaking of the Municipal Market (Sixteenth Annual Meeting)

Moderator: Kenneth Durr

Presenter(s): Marcy Edwards, W. Bartley Hildreth, Lynn Hume

05 June 2014

Corporate Governance in the New Century (Fifteenth Annual Meeting)

Moderator: Kenneth Durr

Presenter(s): Jill Fisch, Cynthia Fornelli, Keith Higgins, John Olson, Ann Yerger

6 June 2013

The Anatomy of Securities Legislation (Fourteenth Annual Meeting)

Moderator: Dr. Kurt Hohenstein

Presenter(s): Jane Cobb and Kathryn Fulton

07 June 2012

A Creative Irritant: The Relationship between the SEC and Accounting Standard Setters (Thirteenth Annual Meeting)

Moderator: George Fritz

Presenter(s): Dennis Beresford, Edmund Jenkins, A. Clarence Sampson

28 April 2011

Fireside Chat - Pay to Play

Moderator: Lisa Fairfax

Presenter(s): David Clapp, Ronald Stack

Made possible through the support of Municipal Securities Rulemaking Board

21 October 2008

Fireside Chat - SEC Office of Compliance Inspection and Examinations

Moderator: Theresa Gabaldon

Presenter(s): John Walsh

28 March 2006

Fireside Chat - Online Fraud

Moderator: Theresa Gabaldon

Presenter(s): John Reed Stark

14 June 2005

Fireside Chat - Regulation FD and Real-Time Disclosure

Moderator: Theresa Gabaldon

Presenter(s): Dixie Johnson, Laura Unger

20 April 2004

Fireside Chat - Municipal Securities Regulation

Moderator: Donald Langevoort

Presenter(s): Michael McCarthy, Christopher Taylor

29 May 2003

Roundtable on Regional Administrators

Moderator: Irving Pollack, Stanley Sporkin

Presenter(s): Gerald Boltz, Jack Bookey, Robert Davenport, Kevin Duffy, Randall Fons, Leonard Rossen, William Schief, Michael Stewart, Robert Watson

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