Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Let me take a moment - since I have not yet had the chance - to congratulate you publicly on taking over the Chairmanship of our Committee. I am looking forward to working with you on important legislation in the 108th Congress and I think there are a number of important issues where we will find a great deal of common ground.
Today, we are going to be hearing from Mr. William Donaldson, the President's choice to replace Harvey Pitt as head of the Securities and Exchange Commission.
I believe it is absolutely essential that we have a strong and effective leader running the SEC.
I was the first Member of this Committee to call for Mr. Pitt to step down from his role at the SEC. With the ever-intensifying concerns from many about his decisions and priorities and with the profound problems in the markets and with investor confidence, it was clear to me that we needed new leadership.
The sooner we have a strong leader in place at the SEC, the sooner we can assure consumers that the Sarbanes-Oxley Act will be implemented effectively.
I look forward to hearing more from Mr. Donaldson about how he intends to make sure the law is fully implemented as intended by Congress. I also look forward to learning more about his plans to restore investor confidence. I know that people remain scared of the markets. Many people lost huge portions of their life savings over the last three years and are holding back on future investments. In addition, I do not believe that we can guarantee to the public that all of our accounting concerns have been allayed. The work of the Public Accounting Oversight Board, after all, is just getting underway.
Mr. Donaldson came by my office yesterday and we had a chance to talk briefly about a number of issues of concern to me.
In particular, I indicated to him that it is extremely important to me that the corporate whistleblower amendment that I offered to the accounting reform bill is effectively implemented. I want to make sure that employees can confidentially and anonymously report concerns about accounting wrong-doing directly to their company's audit committees. In this way, I believe we can stop some of these corporate implosions early on - rather than after millions of dollars invested in these companies are lost and thousands of jobs are gone forever.
I will remain actively engaged on this issue of corporate whistleblowing, and I want to work with the SEC to make sure the new whistleblower mechanism is working well.
It is also important to me that the public understand the new law. I have encouraged Mr. Donaldson, upon confirmation, to update the SEC's website and to engage in a public relations campaign to make sure that the employees of publicly-traded companies understand that they have a means of reporting questionable accounting procedures to those that have a responsibility to do something about it.
Mr. Donaldson and I also had the chance to talk about the challenges the SEC has faced in remaining an independent regulator. Too often, political influences have tried to alter sound policy decisions. Sometime it has been Members of Congress. Sometimes it has been an Administration. Sometimes it has been various industry groups. I want a strong independent SEC that will work in the best interests of investors.
I have told Mr. Donaldson that, to the extent that I can help insulate the SEC from political interference that affects sound decisionmaking, I will be an active and supportive ally.
This is especially critical now, as the SEC gets ready for one of the most significant budget and staffing increases in quite some time. It is so important that the SEC get sufficient funding in the FY 04 funding cycle and beyond.
We tend to forget about Enron and Worldcom and the other companies since they are not in the news everyday. But the SEC, as I'm sure Mr. Donaldson would agree, cannot ignore the wrongdoing that occurred in those various companies and its investigations must continue and those guilty of crimes will need to be punished.
Thank you, Chairman Shelby. I appreciate the chance to share some of my thoughts today and I look forward to learning more about Mr. Donaldson, his vision for the SEC, and how he will help restore investor confidence in America's markets.