Washington (March 3, 2003) -- Securities and Exchange Commission enforcers have asked Congress for legislation that would give them expanded access to secret grand jury information against accounting firms and public companies facing securities fraud charges.

The modification to the "grand jury secrecy rule" proposed by SEC would authorize the U.S. Department of Justice to share testimony, evidence and other confidential grand jury information with the commission staff in more circumstances and at an earlier stage than is currently permissible.

In testimony outlining the plan during hearings of the House Financial Services Subcommittee on Capital Markets, SEC Enforcement Division Director Stephen M. Cutler said that his agency should be granted the same expedited access to grand jury information that is currently available to Federal bank and thrift regulators.

"Under existing criminal procedure law applicable to (SEC), in most cases the commission’s staff will not receive access to grand jury information, and therefore the staff must conduct a separate, duplicative investigation to obtain the same information already in the hands of Federal criminal authorities."

Calling this an "inefficient use of government resources," Cutler told Congress that the grand jury secrecy requirements also place "additional burdens on private persons who must provide essentially the same documents and testimony in multiple investigations."

-- Ken Rankin

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