Speech by SEC Chairman:
Welcoming Remarks, SEC Historical Society's Commemoration of the Commission's Seventy-Third Year
Chairman Christopher Cox
U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission
June 6, 2007
Welcome to the SEC Historical Society's commemoration of the Commission's seventy-third year — and thank you all for coming on this sunny summer day to our new, modern, spacious and air-conditioned auditorium.
It's certain that no facility like this was available seventy-three years ago, at the Commission's founding, when America's attention was perhaps focused not only on the government's efforts to restore confidence in the economy — but also on more mundane interests such as Yankee slugger Myrl Hoag and his feat of six singles in one game. That impressive performance, like every sporting event and public gathering in those days, was performed in stadiums and auditoriums completely lacking in climate control. Back then, fans and athletes cooled off in other ways — one of the most important being eating ice cream. So I am delighted to see that the SEC Historical Society has arranged the best of both the modern and the antique: a large, cool room for us to enjoy on a hot summer day, along with an ice cream social immediately following the more substantive part of today's program.
I'm sure that, in their remarks, Ed Greene and our other panelists will hit the equivalent of six singles — maybe even a home run — if they can resolve all the discrepancies in the world's various regulatory regimes.
Considering the history of the SEC's three-quarters of a century involves immersing ourselves in all of the other events and social developments of the intervening decades. It was ten years to the day after the founding of the SEC that the Allies launched the invasion at Normandy, which marked the beginning of the liberation of Western Europe. With the end of the War came the end of the Depression — and the postwar years, as a consequence of the bravery of the Rangers who scaled the cliffs of Normandy and so many other Americans who fought with them, were filled with great confidence. Americans turned their heroic efforts to working in peace to extend the sphere of free minds and free markets.
Even through the tensions of the Cold War, America was by and large in a celebratory mood, because we had much to celebrate — including especially the successes of sustained government policies, under Democratic and Republican administrations, of promoting the free flow of investment in our capital markets built on a foundation of investor protection that became the model for the entire world.
History's current has carried us through dramatic cultural changes, as well, that continue to this day. In fact it was on today's date — June 6, in 1955 — that Bill Haley and the Comets reached number one on the hit parade with "Rock Around the Clock." And exactly five years to the day later, on June 6, 1960, Roy Orbison released "Only the Lonely." If you remember those songs, you'll feel right at home during today's tour down the SEC's Memory Lane.
We've all come here today because we appreciate the rhythms — the music, if you will — of the now-global marketplace. Today's theme is "Beyond Borders," and that really is the point: As we near the end of the first decade of the 21st century, and our markets continue to reach for new highs, the history of the SEC and of our markets now takes us around the world, through every time zone. And I think each of us is inexorably led to the notion that the future history of the SEC and of our global capital markets may well help literally billions of new people reach previously unimagined levels of prosperity and individual freedom.
It's not too much to hope that if we're successful in building such a world, not only prosperity but peace among nations can be the result. As the 19th century French economist Frederic Bastiat observed, "Where goods cannot cross borders, soldiers will." By insuring the integrity of our worldwide markets — by taking our war against fraud and unfair dealing into the international arena — we at the SEC are doing the valiant work of peacemakers.
It's true that much of our world remains disorderly and grim, even while markets grow. I don't think that observation exactly rebuts Bastiat, who surely would have recognized why some national differences — including differences in the regulation of trade in our capital markets — must continue to exist, while we do our best to harmonize them. Another great thinker, Alfred North Whitehead, offered in the last century what might be taken as a friendly corrective to Bastiat: "Other nations of different habits," he said, "are not enemies: they are godsends. Men require of their neighbors something sufficiently akin, to be understood; something sufficiently different, to provoke attention; and something great enough to command admiration. We must not expect, however, all the virtues."
Following such enlightened thinking, the SEC, under the guidance of Ethiopis Tafara and with the leadership of each of the Divisions and Offices of our agency, is working to develop a new framework for securities regulation in the global era — in which foreign stock exchanges, foreign broker-dealers, and foreign securities might all find a way to integrate with our own domestic system of regulation and investor protection.
With such a consequential and hopeful vision laid before us, I'm eager to hear what Ed and the rest of our illustrious panelists brought together by the SEC Historical Society have to say. There is much thinking to be done on the road ahead — so I hope that any headaches you feel later on this afternoon will be limited to whatever is caused from eating the ice cream too fast.
Congratulations to all of you — to all of us in the SEC family — as we celebrate our 73rd birthday. And special thanks to Carla and to everyone at the SEC Historical Society for all of your fine work in organizing this event.