"Dissed" is probably not a phrase commonly heard in the regulatory vernacular of the Securities and Exchange Commission.
Yet, SEC chairman Harvey Pitt, and even the folks who annually compile Roget’s Thesaurus, would be hard pressed to come up with a better word to describe the commission’s recent treatment at the hands of the Bush administration.
Although borne from urban and hip-hop lore, dissed is exactly what’s happened to the starchy, white-collar climate at the commission under Dubya and the White House’s Office of Management and Budget.
When the 2003 budget numbers were being crunched, Pitt requested an additional $76 million for his agency. The purpose was two-fold: to bring SEC employees’ salaries on par with members of other federal agencies and to stem the tide of rampant turnover at the regulatory body, which for the past several years, has resembled the time clock at your local Burger King.
To this, the OMB politely said "No."
Pitt also pleaded for an additional $18 million for the agency to cover the relocation expenses of its New York office after Sept. 11. The request was certainly not unreasonable, since the SEC’s regional headquarters which oversees enforcement, was leveled in the World Trade Center attacks.
Again, he was denied.
Adding to the SEC’s overhead was the time and expense needed to establish the commission’s proposed "Public Accountability Board," for accounting industry oversight. When you take everything into account, it borders on ludicrous to be dickering over a few million.
And yet, in the post-Enron/Andersen era when the investing public and lawmakers are calling for mass reform in the accounting industry and the financial markets, that the commission’s requests for additional funding are summarily dismissed like a teenager asking for a $300 Prada handbag.
Thankfully, some sane heads prevailed.
One of them, Rep. Frank Wolf, a Virginia Republican, who sits on a House Appropriations subcommittee, said he would intervene and petition the OMB to get Pitt and the agency the money it needs.
Now to be fair I know the folks at 1600 have their hands full with this little problem in the Middle East,
but if their TV and print sound bites are genuine about resurrecting investor confidence and reforming the financial disclosure system, then they probably need to get with the program and give Pitt and the SEC the money.
It’s surely not going toward new carpeting.
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