WASHINGTON -President Bush is proposing $913 million of spending authority for the Securities and Exchange Commission in fiscal 2009, a less than 1% uptick over the $907 million that the administration projects Congress will make available to the SEC for the current fiscal year, which ends Sept. 30.
In contrast, the current year's $907 million enacted budget is about 3% higher than the $876 million figure for fiscal 2007.
Still, SEC executive director Diego Ruiztold reporters at a press briefing yesterday that the budget request will allow the commission to focus on facilitating the development of global capital markets, lowering costs and increasing choices for domestic investors while increasing the SEC's oversight of credit rating agencies.
"At this request level, the SEC will be able to vigorously pursue its agenda on behalf of investors, which [also] includes taking aggressive enforcement action against any fraud uncovered in the mortgage or municipal bond markets, insider trading, financial disclosures, scams against seniors, and all the array of enforcement actions that we are currently engaged in," he said.
Still, the total number of positions at the SEC is expected to decrease slightly to 3,771 in fiscal 2009 from 3,868 in fiscal 2008, but Ruiz attributed the downturn in total positions at least partly to attrition. He also attributed the decrease to the lateness of the passage of an omnibus spending bill Congress passed in December that will fund the SEC's operations for the remainder of the fiscal year, which began Oct. 1. Because the funding came so late for 2008, it's more difficult for the commission to actually employ the full 3,868 positions in its 2008 funding proposal, he said.
As for individual programs, the proposed budget would allow the number of staff positions in the SEC's enforcement division to fall slightly to 1,177 from 1,209. The division expects to handle 1.6 million investor complains, tips, and forward e-mail "spams" that will result in the opening of about 1,035 "matters of inquiry," according to budget documents.
.It also plans to open about 785 investigations during the year and to detail staff to work with the Justice Department on criminal prosecutions of securities fraud. Staff positions in the SEC's Office of Compliance Inspections and Examinations would drop to 853 from 882, under the proposal. The office oversees about broker-dealers, transfer agents, clearing agencies, and self-regulatory organizations. q