SEC funding shift in Senate's draft financial fix

AP News
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Posted: Nov 09, 2009 6:48 PM

Measures that would significantly boost funding for the Securities and Exchange Commission as well as give shareholders a say on executive pay are included in draft financial overhaul legislation in the Senate, a person familiar with the matter said Monday.

Sen. Christopher Dodd, D-Conn., chairman of the Senate Banking Committee, is expected to unveil Tuesday his long-awaited proposal for bolstering the country's system of financial regulation. It differs from the Obama administration's proposal by limiting the power of the Federal Reserve and consolidating supervision of U.S. banks into a single regulator.

The person familiar with the matter spoke on condition of anonymity because the legislative proposal hasn't yet been made public.

Dodd's draft legislation includes the funding change for the SEC, a move aimed at giving the market watchdog agency more resources to prevent future disasters like its failure to detect Bernard Madoff's multibillion-dollar fraud.

Proposed by Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., the new system would dedicate all the annual revenue collected by the SEC to its budget. Currently, a large portion of the fees paid by public companies and other entities that register stock with the agency go to the Treasury Department for the government's coffers.

That would give the SEC a funding structure similar to that of the Federal Reserve and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., which are able to use all the revenue they collect from banks to fund their operations.

SEC Chairman Mary Schapiro called for the funding change in a speech last week.

Also included in Dodd's package is a requirement for so-called "say-on-pay" in corporate America, requiring all public companies to give shareholders a nonbinding vote on executive compensation packages. That also is part of the administration's proposal and the financial overhaul package approved last week by the House Financial Services Committee _ and expected to be voted on by the full House early next month.

"Self-funding" for the SEC isn't included, however, in the House bill or the administration proposal. Dodd's proposal raises the issue, which could prompt opposition from the Treasury Department.

The administration has proposed $1.03 billion for the SEC for the fiscal year that began Oct. 1 _ the first time it would top $1 billion _ up from $960 million in the current year. If the new proposed system for funding the SEC had been in effect in 2007, the agency would have had $650 million atop its $881.5 million budget, based on what it collected in revenues that year, Schumer has said.

"As we've learned through numerous scandals, the SEC has been overmatched in its attempts to keep up with those who flout rules of the market," Schumer said in a statement Monday. "This proposal will help the agency recruit and retain the best of the best when it comes to examiners and compliance officers. It will help ensure that the next attempted fraud scheme gets discovered before it can inflict so much damage on innocent investors."

Schapiro, in her speech, said it is "truly critical" for the SEC to have "sufficient, stable, long-term funding."

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Associated Press writer Anne Flaherty contributed to this report.