After 16 years, the executive director of the Securities and Exchange Commission will step down to pursue opportunities in the private sector.Jim McConnell, 58, who joined the SEC in 1984 as a management analyst, plans to retire in early June and said that he will spend the next two months assisting with transition efforts at the agency.

"Jim McConnell has become an institution at the SEC," said Chairman Christopher Cox, in a statement. "He has overseen the remarkable growth in the commission's budget and responsibilities that followed in the wake of Enron and other corporate scandals."

Cox said that during McConnell's tenure, the SEC's budget grew from $94 million to over $900 million, and that the complexity of its operations had increased accordingly. In a statement, McConnell said that it has been a pleasure working with Cox on budget and management issues in recent months, and praised the agency's staff.

"I believe that the two most important characteristics that have made the SEC one of the best government institutions are that its senior leadership has never wavered from the goal of investor protection, and it has attracted an extraordinary group of dedicated professionals," McConnell said.

McConnell served as the commission's chief management analyst before being appointed by then-chair Richard Breeden as executive director in 1990. McConnell was responsible for financial management, human resources, filings and information services, strategic planning, audited financial statements, internal control, and information technology. In recent months he has been working on financial improvements with efforts to obtain special pay authority, independent leasing and a fee-based funding mechanism for the agency.

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