Washington (Feb. 12, 2003) -- Departing Securities and Exchange Commission chairman Harvey Pitt defended the $452,000 salaries members of the new accounting oversight board gave themselves, saying the premium pay will insure the best people will be attracted to the jobs.

The Senate has already voted to cut the annual pay to $400,000 or less.

"We want to get the best people to work for the accounting oversight board so the public will be protected," Pitt said in an interview on CNN's "Moneyline."

Pitt resigned in November following a series of public gaffes, culminating in his botched selection of former FBI Director William Webster to head the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board.

At its first formal meeting last month, the board's four members voted themselves $452,000 salaries, exceeding President Bush's annual pay of $400,000. That prompted the Senate to approve a measure that would cut the board members' salaries to $400,000 or less.

Pitt said Monday that the $452,000 salaries were on par with paid members of the Financial Accounting Standards Board.

He also commented on Arthur Andersen’s demise following its conviction on obstruction of justice charges last spring in connection with the failure of Enron Corp. Pitt said Andersen should have spent more efforts on internal reform before the government stepped in, adding that if it had, "I think it could have been saved."

-- Electronic Accountant Newswire staff

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