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SEC commissioner Paul Atkins steps down

06 May 2008  |  540 views  |  0 Source: Securities and Exchange Commission

Securities and Exchange Commissioner Paul Atkins announced today that he intends to leave the SEC following the end of his term.

Appointed by President Bush in August 2002 for the first of two terms, he plans to stay until his successor is appointed and takes office.

Commissioner Atkins has been a champion of protecting investors. Among other things, he has emphasized investor education and increased enforcement efforts against those who steal from investors through Ponzi schemes, boiler room operations, market manipulations, and Internet and other frauds designed to steal the savings of unsuspecting investors. In particular, Commissioner Atkins was instrumental in the creation of the SEC's Microcap Fraud Working Group. He also has personally conducted more than 40 town hall meetings with U.S. military personnel on bases in the U.S. and abroad, students, retirees, and investor and small business organizations, often using his own multi-media presentation that weaves movie clips, statistics, and anecdotes to discuss the principles of careful, long-term investing.

During his almost six years in office, Commissioner Atkins has advocated greater transparency and cost-benefit analysis in the SEC rulemaking process. He has championed rulemaking designed to make disclosure documents for mutual funds and corporations more straightforward and user-friendly, foreign investment more accessible to U.S. investors seeking to diversify their portfolios, and raising capital easier for small businesses.

A believer in a balanced approach to regulation, he has scrutinized attempts to interject additional regulatory costs that are borne by investors without corresponding benefits. Among other things, he was a strong advocate for curtailing the excesses of the now-repealed Audit Standard 2, which implemented the internal-control documentation requirement of Section 404 of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002.

Commissioner Atkins has reached out to foreign regulators, companies, and investors to understand their unique perspectives, to address their concerns, and to foster cooperative enforcement efforts for the protection of investors worldwide. During his tenure as a commissioner, he has traveled to Europe, Asia, Africa, Canada, Mexico, and South America. His efforts have led to significantly increased cooperation with foreign regulators and financial organizations and to a rationalization of SEC regulations so that they coordinate effectively with rules of other countries. These efforts have helped to encourage foreign companies to invest, as well as list their securities, in the United States.

Commissioner Atkins's efforts for greater transparency have extended beyond rulemaking. He has advocated enhanced due process protections and uniformity in the enforcement program, and he has emphasized a more efficient allocation of inspection and examination resources. He believes that the SEC must become more responsive to investors, companies, and regulated entities alike, including streamlining internal SEC processes to reach decisions on new products more efficiently and with more accountability.

"Over the course of two decades, Commissioner Atkins has worked energetically to ensure that the administration of the nation's securities laws is fair, efficient, and transparent," said SEC Chairman Christopher Cox. "He has worked with five Chairmen to advance the causes of investor protection and the improvement of our capital markets. At a time when the men and women of our armed services are being called upon to make extraordinary sacrifices, Paul Atkins has led the agency's investor education initiatives at military bases across the country and around the world. And as a result of his exceptional devotion to ensuring that the costs of regulation are kept in line with its benefits, the implementation of Sarbanes-Oxley Section 404 has been rationalized with benefits for investors and companies alike. It has been an honor and a privilege to serve with him on the Commission, and to have the benefit of his years of wisdom, his sense of humor, and his friendship. The SEC and the nation's investors owe him a deep debt of gratitude for the many years of his life that he has devoted to public service."

Commissioner Atkins leaves with almost 10 years of service with the agency. He served from 1990-94 on the staffs of two former SEC chairmen, Richard C. Breeden and Arthur Levitt, ultimately as chief of staff and counselor, respectively.

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