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The White House announced Thursday that President Bush intends to nominate Harvey L. Pitt, a leading securities lawyer, to be chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission. Pitt, 56, served as the agency’s general counsel from 1975 to 1978 under President Jimmy Carter before joining the New York and Washington, D.C., offices of Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson, where he has represented some of Wall Street’s biggest players and trade groups in disputes with the SEC. If confirmed by the Senate, Pitt, a Republican, would replace Arthur Levitt, a Democrat and the SEC’s longest-serving chairman, who stepped down in early February after 7-1/2 years at the helm. Since then, Laura Unger, currently the agency’s sole Republican commissioner, has served as interim chairman. As SEC chairman, Pitt would confront a number of difficult challenges, including the globalization of the securities market, the impact of the Internet and implementation of various far-reaching regulations pushed through by his predecessor, some of which Pitt fought against. Pitt said Thursday that he was “honored by the president’s intention to nominate me.” Some observers said that it would be interesting to see how he makes the transition from one of the most prominent defenders of industries under the SEC’s watch to the agency’s helmsman. “This is one of the nation’s most talented and experienced securities lawyers, and there’s every reason to hope he will be a highly successful SEC chairman,” said Harvey J. Goldschmid, a former SEC general counsel and professor at Columbia Law School. “The only question is whether he will make the transition from a terrific client advocate to an enormously effective public official,” he added. Pitt has an enviable roster of clients, including some of the securities industry’s most important trade groups. As the lawyer for the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants, he helped negotiate a deal late last year between the accounting industry and the SEC that significantly softened proposed rules to limit auditors’ ability to offer other services, such as legal and management consulting. He was a leading lobbyist for the 1995 Private Securities Litigation Reform Act, designed to curb the flood of securities class actions. He represented the New York Stock Exchange in an SEC investigation of trading practices; the agency, in an unprecedented step, concluded its investigation without ordering sanctions. Other clients have included Ivan F. Boesky, Wall Street’s most powerful arbitrager until pleading guilty to insider trading, and Microstrategy chairman Michael Saylor, who has been under investigation for revisions to the company’s financial statements that last summer caused its stock price to drop 62 percent in one day. In addition to maintaining an active practice, Pitt is a prolific writer, having published close to 200 articles on a wide range of legal topics, and is co-author of a seven-volume treatise on financial services law. In the early 1990s Pitt wrote a series of articles for The New York Law Journal on issues including the savings and loan scandal, insider trading, and aiding and abetting liability. Pitt, a native of Brooklyn, graduated in 1965 from Brooklyn College and received his law degree in 1968 from St. John’s University School of Law.

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