Bush signs bill to expedite SEC hiring

President Bush signed legislation Friday giving the Securities and Exchange Commission the authority to use expedited hiring procedures to bring on new accountants, economists and compliance examiners.

The legislation would give the SEC the authority to exempt applicants for such positions from the standard federal hiring process. The SEC has long had expedited authority for hiring attorneys. Agency officials and lawmakers argued that the special authority also was needed to speed the hiring process for other employees critical to dealing with recent corporate scandals.

The bill was passed without opposition in the House and the Senate last month, after the SEC and the National Treasury Employees Union agreed on a plan to implement the expedited hiring process.

Earlier this year, SEC officials said they had hired nearly all of the new lawyers the agency was authorized to bring on board in the wake of the accounting scandals, but have managed to fill less than 40 percent of the accountant positions.

This problem could be exacerbated in the coming year, because the SEC expects to hire more than 800 new accountants, economists and compliance examiners as a result of an expected funding increase in the agency's fiscal 2004 budget.

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