The chief accountant of the Securities and Exchange Commission, Donald T. Nicolaisen, will leave the commission in October to return to the private sector.

Nicolaisen, 61, joined the SEC under former Chairman William Donaldson in September 2003, and led numerous initiatives to improve financial disclosure, strengthen the audit process and rebuild investor confidence.

His departure will leave Donaldson's successor, Christopher Cox, with another hole to fill at the commission. Cox, who took office Aug. 4, is already looking to fill the top director positions for the market regulation and investment management divisions.

"Don Nicolaisen has served with distinction during challenging times and has met every challenge -- most notably by establishing landmark new protections for investors during the implementation of Sarbanes-Oxley," said Cox, in a statement. Cox said that Nicolaisen will help the SEC search for his successor in the coming month.

As chief accountant, Nicolaisen worked with the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board to implement sections of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, as well as with the Financial Accounting Standards Board and international standard-setters toward eventual convergence of accounting standards.

Nicolaisen also played a role in the implementation of a pilot program allowing companies to submit data voluntarily using Extensible Business Reporting Language, and in recent years has dealt with issues including stock-option expensing, Fannie Mae's accounting and the use of off-balance sheet arrangements by corporations.

Prior to joining the SEC, Nicolaisen was a senior partner at PricewaterhouseCoopers. He started his career with PwC's predecessor, Price Waterhouse, in 1967, rising to the firm's board of partners in 1994.

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