WASHINGTON — Due to ongoing budgetary uncertainties, the Securities and Exchange Commission is seeking to lead its municipal securities office with a director who does not report directly to SEC chairman Mary Schapiro, as was mandated by the financial reform law enacted last year.
In a job announcement posted last week on www.usajobs.com, the SEC launched a search for the office chief, a position vacant since the previous director, Martha Haines, retired in June. Under the Dodd-Frank Act, the head of the SEC’s muni office is required to report directly to Schapiro.
But the job announcement, which remains open through Jan. 6, 2012, says the director serves “under the direction” of the head of the SEC’s division of trading and markets, which encompasses the muni office.
“We didn’t get reprogramming approval from Congress to stand up the office under fiscal 2011 authority and we’re still working through [the] budget request for this year, so we can’t yet change the reporting line,” John Nester, an SEC spokesman, wrote in an e-mail. “This hire starts out as a replacement for the prior incumbent with the existing reporting line.”
Earlier this year, Schapiro asked the chairs of the House and Senate appropriations subcommittees for permission to reprogram fiscal 2011 funds so the commission could create a standalone five-person office of municipal securities, whose director would report directly to Schapiro.
The reprogramming became necessary after Congress passed, and President Obama signed, a continuing resolution that kept funding for agencies, including the SEC, at fiscal-year 2010 levels.
The SEC’s 2011 fiscal year ended Sept. 30.
Since then, the commission, which asked Congress to approve a $1.4 billion 2012 budget, has been operating under a continuing resolution at 2011 funding levels, Nester said. The CR expires on Friday.
The SEC now has the authority to reprogram existing funds, “but we can’t use it until they give us a fiscal 2012 appropriation,” Nester added.
An observer declined to speculate about the SEC’s move.
“You have to ask the commission exactly what their intentions are with respect to filling that slot and how they have it structured,” said Paul Maco, a partner at Vinson & Elkins LLP in Washington.
Maco, who served as the muni office’s first director in the 1990s, under then-SEC-chairman Arthur Levitt, will be leaving his firm to join Bracewell & Giuliani LLP early next year. He is one of 14 Vinson & Elkins lawyers making the shift.
To qualify for the current director’s job, which boasts an annual salary between $150,372 and $230,700, applicants must have experience providing guidance for sensitive and complex programs, issues, and problems related to the municipal securities market and its participants, the SEC says.
Any would-be director also must have knowledge of the rules of the Municipal Securities Rulemaking Board, superior analytic and writing skills, the ability to organize and complete “difficult and sensitive projects that may have no precedent,” and originality and judgment to “recommend solutions to novel and unique problems,” according to the SEC.