Congress Could Ease SEC Hiring of New Accountants

WASHINGTON ( subcommittee of the House of Representatives has approved a bill that addresses the staffing problems at the Securities and Exchange Commission--the Accountant, Compliance, and Enforcement Staffing Act of 2003, H.R. 658.

ACES, introduced Feb. 11 by financial services committee chair Michael G. Oxley (R-Ohio) and capital markets subcommittee chair Richard H. Baker (R-La.) passed Rep. Baker's subcommittee March 20 by a voice vote.

"All the reforms and all the new penalties to deter wrongdoing don't mean anything unless you have the ability to implement and enforce them. Today we're helping to get more cops on the street, to protect and to serve America's average investors," Rep. Baker said in a statement.

The legislation gives the SEC the authority to exempt accountants, economists and securities compliance examiners from civil service hiring requirements, an authority it already possesses in connection with its hiring of attorneys. Current estimates are that the SEC will need to hire more than 800 new professionals as a consequence of recent expansions of its responsibilities and its budget.

In a joint letter to the financial services committee, the chairman of the SEC, William H. Donaldson, and the president of the National Treasury Employees Union, Colleen M. Kelley, urged passage of this bill, which they said both fulfills the administrative needs of the SEC and protects the rights of its future employees.

"Without this expedited hiring authority, the commission will not be able to hire the additional staff it needs--and which the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 contemplates--in any responsive time frame to aid in the protection of America's investors and to help restore the integrity of our capital markets," they wrote.

Senators Richard C. Shelby (R-Ala.), the chairman of the Senate Banking Committee, and Michael B. Enzi (R-Wyo.), the chairman of its Securities and Investment subcommittee, introduced their own version of ACES, S. 496, in that chamber, March 3.

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