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For many observers of the Securities and Exchange Commission, 2002 will be remembered as the year of Harvey Pitt’s ignominious resignation. But while intense media scrutiny, election year point scoring, and his own public relations missteps ultimately cost Pitt the chairman’s seat, the agency he so dearly wanted to shape actually embarked on regulatory and enforcement campaigns of historic proportions. Several SEC insiders have played key roles in those efforts. But two officials stand out. Enforcement Division chief Stephen Cutler stepped into office in October 2001 and promptly confronted a market riven by corporate scandal. He has since pressed an unprecedented number of enforcement actions in an effort to mend it. Many of the former Wilmer, Cutler & Pickering partner’s investigations have yet to ripen into litigation or settlements. He was also the point man on the complex, and politically charged, settlement between Wall Street banks and New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer over the banks’ alleged conflicts of interest. One former senior SEC official describes Cutler’s task as “five-dimensional chess.” Cutler could not be reached for comment. At the center of the SEC’s raft of new and forthcoming regulations is Alan Beller, director of the SEC’s Corporation Finance Division. SEC sources say Beller’s influence over the wide-ranging regulatory effort — now dominated in large part by the rule-making requirements imposed by the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 — has been unmatched. The smart money says that Pitt’s successor is likely to ask Beller to stay on and finish the job. Beller himself says he plans to do so. To be sure, others within the agency have been deeply involved in the rulemaking push. General Counsel Giovanni Prezioso, who like Beller and Cutler was appointed by Pitt, has taken the lead on the SEC’s proposed regulations for corporate lawyers. Those impending rules are among the most controversial to emerge from the agency in 2002. Beller, 53, had spent his entire 25-year legal career at New York’s Cleary, Gottlieb, Steen & Hamilton before joining the SEC in January 2002. Pitt created a new title for Beller — senior counselor to the commission — to signal that, in addition to leading the corporation finance team, Beller would be engaged in other efforts at the agency. Over the past year, he says, he’s been going flat out. “I have never had a professional experience that’s been as intense,” Beller relates. “It’s been challenging, and who would deny that at times it’s been exhausting? But people who describe the agency as in disarray just don’t see the day-to-day drive and dedication of the staff here.” Others close to the SEC note that Beller has managed to win over the agency’s rank and file, something high-level appointees to the commission aren’t always able to do. “Alan is playing a central, critical role” at the SEC now, says Meredith Cross, a Wilmer, Cutler & Pickering partner and former deputy director of the SEC’s Corporation Finance Division. One reason he’s been able to do that, she says, is that he has won the confidence of the career staff. “It’s rare for someone to come in from the outside and gain the trust of the staff,” Cross says. “It’s particularly important when things are so unsettled.” While observers have described Beller as perhaps the key architect of the Sarbanes-Oxley rule making, he says he hasn’t stepped back to consider the importance of his own role. “I haven’t thought about it in those terms,” he says. “It’s very much a team effort, and we’re still in the middle of building the house.”

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