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Series II: Arranged Correspondence
Series III: Speeches and Testimonies
Series IV: Speeches Background Material
Series VI: Printed Materials
Series VIII: Audiovisual Records
Series X: SEC Work Files
At a Glance
This collection is arranged into 13 series.
Correspondence, speeches, speech materials, news clippings, subject files, audio and videotapes relating to the professional activity of Arthur Levitt, Jr. The papers and audiovisual material deal primarily with his tenure as the Chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission (1993-2001), but also contain earlier records, including some materials relating to Levitt's school years at the Polytechnic Preparatory Country Day School and at Williams College, and his work at Hayden Stone, the American Stock Exchange, and the New York Economic Development Corporation, and his advocacy of the National Endowment of the Arts during the 1991-1992 funding controversy. These papers also contain materials relating to his father, Arthur Levitt, Sr., who served for 24 years as New York State Comptroller.
Using the Collection
Rare Book and Manuscript Library
Restrictions on Access
This collection has no restrictions.
Terms Governing Use and Reproduction
Identification of specific item; Date (if known); Arthur Levitt papers; Box and Folder; Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Columbia University Library.
Ownership and Custodial History
Gift of Hilda Harding of the Securities and Exchange Commission, 2001.
About the Finding Aid / Processing Information
Columbia University Libraries, Rare Book and Manuscript Library
Papers Processed JG/HR 07/12/2002.
2010-02-16 Legacy finding aid created from Pro Cite.
2019-05-20 EAD was imported spring 2019 as part of the ArchivesSpace Phase II migration.
History / Biographical Note
Biographical / Historical
Levitt, the 25th Chairman of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, was first appointed by President Clinton in July of 1993 and reappointed to a second five-year term in May of 1998. The longest serving Chairman in the history of the Commission, Arthur Levitt retired from the SEC on Feb. 9th 2001.
The SEC is an independant, nonpartisan, quasijudicial regulatory agency with responsibility for administering the federal securities laws. The purpose of these laws is to protect investors in securities markets that operate fairly and to ensure that investors have access to disclosure of all material information concerning publicly traded securities. The Commission also regulates firms engaged in the purchase or sale of securities, people who provide investment advice, and investment companies. Five Commissioners sit on the SEC with one designated as chairman by the President of the United States.
Key successes of Levitt's first term include reforming the debt markets, improving broker sales and pay practices, promoting the use of plain English in investment literature as well as in SEC communications with the public, preserving the independence of the private sector standard setting process, ensuring the independence of accountants, and encouraging foreign companies to list on U.S. markets.
During Chairman Levitt's tenure, the SEC established the Office of Investor Education and Assistance and created the SEC's World Wide Web site, one of the most popular on the internet, which allows the SEC to make all corporate filings available to the public free of charge. Chairman Levitt has been supportive of high-tech and online securities trading. He supported passage of both the Securities Litigation Uniform Standards Act in 1998 and the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act in the 104th Congress. These bills are designed to reduce the number of frivolous class action lawsuits brought primarily against high tech companies in the computer, internet, and biotech industries.
Chairman Levitt has also sought to raise the industry's sales prectice standards and eliminate the conflicts of interest in how brokers are compensated. During his tenure at the SEC, Levitt worked to protect the interests of the individual investor, which manifested itself most clearly in the passage of Regulation FD. Regulation FD, which went into effect in October 2000, mandates that public companies must broadly disseminate material non-public information simultaneously to all investors. In the wake of Regulation FD, webcasting of company conference calls and other investment events has emerged as one of the most efficient and effective ways companies can help immunize themselves against potential selective disclosure issues.
The SEC has worked to sever ties between political campaign contributions and minicipal underwriting business, a practice known as pay-to-play, as well as improving the disclosure and transparency of the municipal bond market. Chairman Levitt tried to introduce rules barring CPA firms from providing consulting services to their audit clients, believing that consulting feed offer an unhealthy temptation to professional services firms that conduct certified audits. Levitt's initiatives were ment with a determined lobbying effort by the accounting industry. Eventually Levitt was forced to water down his proposals and he accepted a requirement that made companies disclose the dollar amount of the audit and consulting fees that they pay.
The Commission, together with the industry, has developed the Profile Prospectus and other plain English guidelines for investment products in an effort to make disclosure documents easier to understand without compromising the value of the information provided to investors.
Before joining the Commission, Mr Levitt owned Roll Call, a newspaper that covers Capitol Hill. From 1989 to 1993, he served as the Chairman of the New York City Economic Development Corporation. And from 1978 to 1989, he was the Chairman of the American Stock Exchange. Prior to joining the American Stock Exchange, Mr Levitt worked on Wall Street for 16 years, serving as a president for Carter Berlind & Weill and Shearson Hayden Stone, Inc. He graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Williams College in 1952 before serving for two years in the Air Force.