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Arthur Levitt Jr. Is Clinton's Pick to Head SEC : Politics: The President's nominee is a publisher and former chairman of the American Stock Exchange.


WASHINGTON — President Clinton on Wednesday nominated Arthur Levitt Jr., a publisher and former chairman of the American Stock Exchange, to become chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Levitt, 62, became the leading candidate to head the 2,500-member federal agency several weeks ago after leapfrogging early favorite Consuela M. Washington, a top aide to Rep. John Dingell (D-Mich.), the chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. She would have been the first woman and African-American to head the SEC.

Levitt would take over an agency that is exploring opening U.S. securities markets further to foreign companies. The SEC is also debating whether to curb the potential for insider trading by demanding stricter disclosure standards on issuers of junk bonds. And the SEC is preparing to release this fall an exhaustive study of the future of U.S. capital markets.

"Backed by 20 years of experience in high finance and newly introduced to the workings of Capitol Hill, Arthur Levitt is well prepared to take the helm at the SEC," Clinton said in a statement.

Levitt would succeed Richard Breeden, a Republican nominee who earlier this year announced that he would step down April 15. Breeden has stayed on in the absence of a successor, but it could be several weeks more before the Senate considers whether to confirm Levitt's nomination.

Ken Leibler, who served as president of the American Stock Exchange during Levitt's stint as chairman, said Levitt would make a good SEC chairman because he is "good at consensus building."

"He's not a deregulator," Leibler said of Levitt. "He has an appreciation of the importance of regulation as it relates to confidence in the market. He thinks that a weakening of regulation is not in the interest of the investor."

Levitt's candidacy was reportedly supported by Sen. Christopher Dodd (D-Conn.), who is chairman of the Senate Banking subcommittee on securities. Levitt said he also helped raise $3.5 million at a New York fund-raiser for Clinton last September, although the businessman didn't support Clinton in the primaries.

Levitt, who publishes the Capitol Hill newspaper Roll Call but lives and works in New York, said he would be taking over the SEC at a "critical time," but would not speculate about how he would set priorities for the agency's agenda.

"The SEC has one of the finest staffs of any agency in government, and before I say anything about tactical plans I want to meet with the staff; they've already been in the trenches with these issues," he said.

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