Speech by SEC Chairman:
Investor Summit Opening Remarks
Chairman Harvey L. Pitt
U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission
May 10, 2002
This is our first Investor Summit, but it surely is not our last. As I'm sure everyone interested in our capital markets agrees, we're at a critical juncture in how we regulate our markets. To redress the crisis of confidence in our markets, we are on the verge of the greatest overhaul of securities regulation since the SEC was created nearly 70 years ago. Nothing is off the table as we seek to modernize our regulatory structure and restore investor confidence. The policies we have announced or adopted over the past eight months I have been privileged to serve as SEC Chair will shape securities regulation for the coming decades, and will affect how we save and invest to send our children to college, prepare for retirement, and accomplish our other financial goals.
Individual investors are our most important constituency. The SEC has two critical mandates - to protect investors by ensuring that our markets are fair, and to enhance the ability of our capital markets to serve as the engine for our economic growth and improved standard of living. As many of you know, I started my career here. Over the past quarter century, our markets changed dramatically, and the need for smarter regulation has increased.
In my first eight months in office, we have confronted several unprecedented crises - first 9/11, then Enron, the Andersen indictment, and now renewed questions about analyst conflicts of interest. The problems that created these crises have festered for many years, but were unresolved. We can no longer ignore them. Because individual investor confidence in our markets is critical, we decided to make it easier for investors to talk to us about their concerns, their goals, their ideas, their questions and their opinions. Already, hundreds and hundreds of investors have e-mailed or telephoned their comments, suggestions and questions, and we'll do our best to address them this morning.
As one investor, John, wrote, "Our economy must have the faith of the average investor to succeed." He is absolutely right. And, if we are going to have the faith of average investors, we must listen to them. This Summit is intended to be a forum where individual investors can communicate directly with the Commission and make their views known.
We've invited six distinguished panelists who can help make sure we understand what is on investors' minds. We'll have a discussion with the panel for the next two hours, and then we'll take a short break. When we get back, we'll answer questions that investors have e-mailed to us or have phoned in. We set up a special e-mail address (email@example.com) and a toll-free telephone number (1-877-404-3222) to receive investor input. We'll keep them open even after this first summit, so investors always have a place they can go to let us know how they feel.
Members of the live audience should feel free to write down any questions they'd like addressed. We've put cards on their chairs for that purpose. Because our goal is to respond to the inquiries of individual investors, I ask that the press refrain from submitting questions. We will do our utmost to respond to press inquiries separately.
We'll address as many questions as we have time for. But rest assured, we won't ignore the questions we can't get to - our Office of Investor Education is making sure they are routed to the Office or Division within the Commission that has responsibility for the subject area. And they are providing the Commission with copies of these communications as well.
Before we go around the table, to allow our panelists to introduce themselves to our listening audience, and to tell us briefly the most important points they think we need to hear from investors, I'd like to take a few seconds to recognize Susan Wyderko, the head of our Investor Education operations, and the genius who has hatched and orchestrated this forum, along with all the members of Susan's office. Please stand for just a second.
Panelists in alphabetical order are:
Joe Borg, Director of the Alabama Securities Commission and current President of NASAA.
Patti Houlihan, who is President of Houlihan Financial, located in Virginia.
Bill Mann, the Senior Investment Writer for the Motley Fool (and author of the "Investor Manifesto" series currently running on the Fool website)
James G. Parkel, who was just elected AARP President
Damon Silvers, Associate General Counsel, AFL/CIO. As his title implies, he is a lawyer. But to his credit, he was once a Summer Fellow here at the SEC, so we will forgive him his legal credentials and ask him to tell us what he is hearing.
Michelle Singletary, who writes the syndicated column "The Color of Money."