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Wall Street, Washington Buzzing About Possible Successors

November 07, 2002|Thomas S. Mulligan | Times Staff Writer

NEW YORK — Even before Harvey L. Pitt announced his resignation Tuesday night as chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission, names of possible successors began flying around Wall Street and Washington.

The list includes high-profile politicians, academics and several people with experience at the agency. Here are some of the names most frequently mentioned, along with brief biographies and early handicapping of their chances:

* James R. Doty, 62, former SEC general counsel. Colleagues praise the former Rhodes scholar's manner and work ethic as top lawyer for the SEC during the first Bush administration. However, his close ties with the Bush family could both help and hurt. Democrats probably would scrutinize the SEC's decision, while Doty was general counsel, to close an investigation of the current President Bush's controversial trading in Harken Energy Corp. shares.

* Frank G. Zarb, 67, former chairman of the Nasdaq Stock Market. His Nasdaq ties could be a mixed blessing after the dot-com collapse, but he has deep Republican roots, having served as energy advisor to President Ford and as a high Labor Department official under President Nixon. He is close to Vice President Dick Cheney.

* Richard C. Breeden, 52, former SEC chairman and current WorldCom bankruptcy monitor. The longtime regulator also is mentioned as a possible head of the new accounting oversight board if the current chairman, former FBI and CIA Director William H. Webster, withdraws.

* Frank Keating, 58, outgoing Oklahoma governor. Keating, who is stepping down because of term limits, has never been a regulator but has enforcement experience as a former FBI agent. As a respected politician, he might face a smoother confirmation process than other candidates.

* Joseph Grundfest, 51, Stanford University law and business professor. Grundfest, an SEC commissioner in the 1980s, is considered an enemy of the trial lawyers bar, heading a research organization that monitors securities lawsuits. That wouldn't bother the Bush administration, analysts say, but Democrats could rake over Grundfest's Silicon Valley connections in confirmation hearings. He is a director of Oracle Corp. and Garage.com Inc.

* Laura S. Unger, 41, former SEC commissioner. She was acting chairwoman before Pitt's appointment and is familiar with the pressure-cooker atmosphere, but she could face questions about possible SEC passivity while the Enron Corp. and WorldCom Inc. scandals were brewing.

* Paul S. Atkins, 44, current SEC commissioner. A possible interim appointee, he could be passed over for the permanent post because of his relative youth, some say. His previous job as a partner in accounting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers could raise questions.

* Stanley Sporkin, 70, securities lawyer. The former federal judge, another former SEC chairman, is widely respected, but some consider him too old to return to the job.

* Rudolph W. Giuliani, 58, former New York mayor. As a tough former federal prosecutor who is both Republican and widely known, Giuliani strikes some as a dream candidate. But he said Wednesday he isn't interested in the job. In any case, some experts doubted Bush would want to place a potential rival into a high-visibility job.

Others mentioned include Michael Chertoff, assistant U.S. attorney general and head of the Justice Department's criminal division; Gary Lynch, general counsel for Credit Suisse First Boston, who was the SEC enforcement chief during the insider-trading probes of the 1980s; former SEC Commissioner Richard Y. Roberts; and Texas Securities Commissioner Denise Voigt Crawford.

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