SEC chief applauds budget increase, promises to beef up staff

Saying it might be time for the Securities and Exchange Commission to evolve into "a quicker, more agile, more proactive" force, agency Chairman William Donaldson told House appropriators Thursday he was undertaking a review of the agency's resource needs.

Testifying before the House Commerce-Justice-State Appropriations Subcommittee, Donaldson said President Bush's request for $841.5 million in fiscal 2004 "recognizes that the commission's needs are growing and ongoing."

"This is the largest amount the commission has ever received," Donaldson said, adding that the funds would "allow us to focus further on financial frauds-and the ongoing requirements of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act."

Donaldson also sought to put the commission's 2004 budget request in the context of the agency's 2003 funding level, including funds earmarked for hiring new staff.

That funding, which was provided to SEC under the recent omnibus appropriation, "will enable us to meet the remaining fast-approaching deadlines of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, hire over 800 new staff [and] advance initial start-up funds to the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board," among other goals, Donaldson said.

Speaking of the oversight board, Donaldson said his "hope and expectation" was that it would move "expeditiously" to select a new chairman.

Donaldson asserted that new agency staff would "focus equally" on the issues of full disclosure, transparency and investor protection. And he said the SEC will "hire aggressively, but thoughtfully, not just to increase head count."

Donaldson said his initial review of the budget numbers with respect to the specific staffing increases suggest, "that overall, this level of increase is warranted."

However, noting that the 2003 budget with respect to the specific staffing increases was prepared before his arrival, Donaldson said he intends "to delve more deeply into each program area to verify personally that this is the best and most effective and efficient use of our new staffing."

"I would therefore like to reserve my option to make changes," he said.

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