Mary Schapiro, who is poised to be sworn in today as the chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission, will push to broaden the agency's responsibilities as well as to boost its funding levels, she told a top Democratic lawmaker last week.
Responding to written questions from Michigan Sen. Carl Levin, Schapiro said it is "safe to say" that the SEC "has not been funded at a level commensurate with its responsibilities" but that "additional oversight capability is essential and [I] look forward to working with Congress to ensure that the agency has the resources it needs."
Her comments were publicly released following the Senate's unanimous vote Thursday night confirming her as chairman of the SEC. She replaces Christopher Cox, who left the beleaguered agency quietly on Tuesday.
Schapiro, formerly the chief executive officer of the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, pledged at a confirmation hearing before the Senate Banking Committee earlier this month to "reinvigorate" the SEC's enforcement division and ensure the commission adopts a "laser-like focus" on uncovering fraud and protecting investors.
She told Levin that "important products and market actors [are] beyond the oversight of regulators" and said she would support attempts to broaden the "regulatory umbrella" to include clearinghouses for certain derivatives products and "systemically important market participants," particularly hedge funds.
"Investors deserve to have quality disclosure about all products, actors, and strategies so they can make smart investing decisions, and our markets absolutely require this information, as well as a strong cop on the beat to enforce the rules of the road," she said.
Schapiro's appointment was welcomed by many market participants. Investment Company Institute president and chief executive officer Paul Schott Stevens said: "Especially now, the SEC needs tough and experienced leadership dedicated to fulfilling the agency's vital missions of protecting investors and overseeing our capital markets. Mary Schapiro will provide just that kind of leadership."
But a congressional source expressed reservations about her, questioning whether she will even address problems in the municipal securities market that have made it difficult for all but the largest issuers with the best credit ratings to tap the credit markets.
"We have a broken system," the source said, adding that it would be important for the SEC to consider ways to improve the efficiency of the muni market.
Former SEC chairman Arthur Levitt told The Bond Buyer earlier this month that he suggested Schapiro beef up the staff of the commission's Office of Municipal Securities and recast it as a stand-alone department that reports directly to her, similar to the way it operated during the Clinton administration. But Levitt did not say how she received the advice and Schapiro could not be reached for comment.
Meanwhile, FINRA announced Friday that it appointed Stephen Luparello, its senior executive vice president for regulatory operations, to serve as interim CEO while a board committee searches for a permanent successor to Schapiro. Luparello has been with FINRA and its predecessor organization, NASD, since 1996. Prior to joining FINRA, he served in various positions at the Commodity Futures Trading Commission and the SEC.
The board is also expected to nominate two new large firm board candidates next month following the resignations of two board members: Robert McCann, who recently left Merrill Lynch & Co., and Thomas Russo, formerly of Lehman Brothers.