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Securities and Exchange Commission member Laura S. Unger is expected to resign from her post at the agency, sources said Tuesday, leaving the SEC with only two of five commissioners. But possible Democratic and Republican successors have surfaced. Unger’s five-year term expired in June, but by law, she could have stayed on at the SEC until the end of the next congressional session. She recently was acting chairwoman between the time former Chairman Arthur Levitt stepped down and President Bush appointed Harvey Pitt to the position. Unger wasn’t available for comment, but one source close to the agency believes that filling that interim post has influenced her decision to leave. “Unger really enjoyed being acting chair, and it has been difficult for her to step back to being just another commissioner,” said a source who has talked with Unger about her plans to leave the SEC. “She did a very good job as acting chair, she’s had lots of visibility and she has lots of options.” Pitt and Isaac Hunt are the only commission members left. Hunt’s term has expired also, and he will have to step down at the end of the congressional session unless he is reappointed by the president. Hunt has expressed an interest in being reappointed. The shake-up at the SEC gives Bush an unprecedented opportunity to appoint the entire regulatory panel. But the overwhelming question is: When will the White House get around to rebuilding the commission in light of other national priorities, including a looming recession and military strikes in Afghanistan? “The White House has a lot of things to deal with right now,” said John Olson, a securities attorney with Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher in Washington, D.C. Although the White House may not act on the SEC vacancies any time soon, a crop of contenders has emerged. Likely candidates include Republican Paul Atkins, a former SEC lawyer who is working with PricewaterhouseCoopers. Another is David Cavicke, counsel to the House Energy and Commerce Committee. Cavicke has no SEC experience. Because Bush can’t appoint more than three Republicans, several Democrats are also in the running. Likely candidates include Elisse Walter, chief operating officer of the National Association of Securities Dealers Regulation Inc., and Sarah Miller, director of the American Bankers Association’s Center for Securities, Trusts and Investments. She is a former SEC staffer. Prior to joining NASD Regulation, Walter spent a year and a half as general counsel for the Commodity Futures Trading Commission. She also worked at the SEC from 1986 to 1994 as deputy director for the Division of Corporation Finance. Typically, the SEC chairman has informal veto power over nominations for commissioner slots, attorneys said. The White House could also ask Pitt to suggest some candidates. With Pitt as chairman of the SEC, the White House should have “no trouble finding very good people to serve, although Laura’s shoes would be difficult to fill,” said a securities attorney who asked not to be identified. Copyright (c)2001 TDD, LLC. All rights reserved.

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