Acting now as a lame duck chairman following his resignation last week, Securities and Exchange Commission Chairman Harvey Pitt defended his record, received a standing ovation, and offered comforting words to anyone who has ever been in a similar situation.
Chairman Pitt, a brilliant securities attorney who has been characterized as "seldom wrong, never in doubt," was speaking at the annual meeting of the Securities Industry Association in Boca Raton, Florida. He said, "My tenure at the SEC has been shorter than I expected, but nonetheless it has been enormously rewarding." His accomplishments include:
- Helping to reopen the capital markets after the terrorist attacks of September 11, and sending a message around the world that our markets are the most resilient in the world, and they represent freedom and a way of life – things terrorists can never destroy.
- Launching the most aggressive reform agenda in history to deal with corporate scandals and collapses.
- Demanding sworn certification of past financial statements that helped reduce the constant fear that additional shoes were about to drop and putting in place new rules that require sworn certifications of all future statements.
- Establishing a system of real-time enforcement that enabled the agency to be in court with fraud charges against WorldCom within 24 hours of the company's restatement and winning a freeze on executive bonuses and departure compensation within 72 hours.
- Inspiring SEC staff to go above and beyond the call of duty in a trying year for the agency.
His comforting words for anyone who has ever been in a similar situation are drawn from a speech made by Teddy Roosevelt in Paris in 1910:
It is not the critic who counts, nor the man who points out how the strong man stumbled, or where the doer of deeds could have done better. [C]redit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena; whose face is marred by dust, sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs and comes up short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; who knows the great enthusiasm, the great devotion; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at best, knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who, if he fails, at least failed while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.
Read Chairman Pitt's complete speech.