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Making his first public address as Wall Street’s chief regulator, Securities and Exchange Commission Chairman Christopher Cox pledged Thursday to put investors’ needs before corporate largess. “The Department of Commerce serves the business interests; we are the investor advocates,” Cox told agency staffers in his first day on the job. That statement and several others made in a half-hour of remarks about his new responsibilities were in response to critics’ assertions that Cox would be more interested in defending corporate interests than those of investors. (He added, however, that business and investors’ interests were not mutually exclusive.) The former corporate lawyer also vowed that cleaning up agency and corporate information of “legalese” and encouraging more clarity and consistency in corporate disclosures would be high on his agenda. The agency will also take a tough stance on enforcement and protecting the securities markets from terrorists, he added. “The SEC’s a key part of America’s critical infrastructure,” Cox said. As for specific items on his agenda, the former Republican congressman from California pointed out that the agency has some “thorny” matters to tackle, including controversial rule changes for hedge funds, mutual funds and stock exchanges. Under Cox’s watch, the commission must implement regulations requiring hedge fund managers to register and open their books — the rules take effect in February. Commissioners also will examine the so-called Reg. NMS (National Market System) with an eye toward evening the playing field among stock markets and ensuring that investors get the best price for a trade. Mutual fund governance is another complex issue the agency plans to take up, he added. Cox has not taken a position on any of these concerns yet. Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan on Wednesday swore in Cox as the SEC’s new chairman. The veteran of 17 years on Capitol Hill is expected to be more successful at building consensus with the two other Republican commissioners, Cynthia Glassman and Paul Atkins, than his predecessor. Splits with GOP colleagues forced previous SEC chairman William Donaldson to reach out to Democratic commissioners to adopt key initiatives. People who have followed Cox’s actions as a member of the House Commerce Committee say he has sometimes shown a strong deregulatory bent. At a committee hearing last year, he recommended retiring the Telecommunications Act rather than rewriting it, as most lawmakers have suggested. In 2000, Cox gave a speech to the board of the Hoover Institution entitled “Abolish the Federal Communications Commission.” Copyright �2005 TDD, LLC. All rights reserved.

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