It’s rare that anything or anyone from government completes something earlier than scheduled.
A glaring exception to that maxim occurred during the annual FEI Current Issues in Financial Reporting Conference, when SEC Chairman Christopher Cox addressed attendees in a pithy, 25-minute address that was originally scheduled for nearly an hour. An underlying current of “I can’t get out of here fast enough” bore all the earmarks of someone who’s cleaning out his desk and removing plants from the windowsill.
It’s hardly a secret that with the incoming Obama administration, Cox will be seeking employment elsewhere, a transition that may have occurred far sooner under a McCain presidency since the Arizona senator had repeatedly called for Cox to be shown the door.
I’m not going to dissect the merits and/or demerits of Cox’s three-and-one-half years at the helm of the regulator. He’s taken his lumps from critics, some deserving, some not.
But he did use his abbreviated keynote to sort of quasi-defend his record and in the process perhaps deflect some of the blame.
He correctly pointed out that the financial contagion affecting U.S. markets was hardly exclusive to domestic shores and that the mortgage meltdown that helped reduce some home prices to the discount bin at Wal-Mart was prevalent in countries such as Spain, England and Germany.
He obviously highlighted the current SEC directives such as the much-discussed transition to International Financial Reporting Standards and the regulator’s proactive push toward adoption of Extensible Business Reporting Language, or XBRL.
Although he advocates cooperation among international securities regulators, he spotlighted the fact that securities regulations, unlike accounting standards could not, and should not, be converged, nor should there be a single global securities regulator.
Absent of course was a defense of the accusations that his administration was far too accommodating to the caprices of Wall Street and, by that inference, contributed more than a little to the current malaise.
In 2009, there will be a new face at the SEC helm, and the report card on the Cox administration will no doubt be debated and judged in posterity.
And I’m sure it will take longer than 25 minutes.
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