WASHINGTON — The Securities and Exchange Commission has quietly hired the head-hunting firm Korn/Ferry ­International to find candidates to lead a new municipal securities office that will have a higher stature within the SEC.

News of the search signals that the SEC is moving forward to implement a provision in the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act that would elevate the office in importance and require its director to report directly to SEC chairman Mary Schapiro.

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