Since the Nov. 4 presidential election, the SEC has announced that four key staff members plan to step down. Last week, SEC Chief Accountant Conrad W. Hewitt was the latest to announce he is leaving.
The first departure was announced two days after the election with the resignation of John White, director of the Division of Corporation Finance. That was followed by Brian Cartwright, general counsel, and Alexander Cohen, deputy chief of staff, both in the past two weeks.
SEC Chairman Christopher Cox, whose term on the Commission does not end until 2010, has said he will resign at the end of President Bush's term.
Some senior staff turnover is common following a switch of parties in the White House.
Hewitt and White were heavily involved in financial reporting issues at the SEC. Hewitt led the issuance of management guidance under section 404 of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 to help companies focus their internal control reviews on matters most important to investors. White led the implementation of the guidance. Both men worked to improve the auditor requirements under Sarbanes-Oxley. Their work culminated in the SEC’s approval of a new risk-based PCAOB auditing standard (AS5) to increase reliability while reducing unnecessary costs.
Most recently, Hewitt and White helped lead the SEC’s efforts to increase investor confidence and promote market integrity in response to the current turmoil in the credit markets. Both also championed the potential for increasing the accuracy and comparability of financial reports through the use of interactive data and high-quality international financial reporting standards.
Cartwright led the SEC’s legal team through a busy three years. He helped shape major policy and regulatory initiatives and counseled the SEC on enforcement actions, rulemakings, appellate briefs and adjudications.
Cohen, deputy chief of staff and former deputy general counsel, assisted Cox as senior legal counsel in key initiatives including the SEC’s emergency and accelerated rulemakings in response to recent market turmoil, the proposed road map for use of IFRS by U.S. issuers beginning in 2014, and rules to provide investors with financial information on public companies using interactive data.
SEC news releases about the four resignations are available here:
—Matthew G. Lamoreaux is a senior editor for the JofA. His e-mail address is email@example.com.