All five commissioners of the Securities and Exchange Commission will appear at a committee hearing in the House of Representatives. Commissioners are scheduled to testify before the Committee on Financial Services on June 26 at 2:00 p.m. in Washington.
The SEC has drawn criticism from investors this year on a number of issues. Investor groups and state officials complained after the agency decided to file a "friend of the court" brief with the U.S. Supreme Court in February in support of corporate defendants in a securities case involving pleading standards. Shareholders also have expressed concern over Chairman Christopher Cox's push for unanimous commissioner approval of corporate fines, and about news reports that the agency was considering mandatory arbitration of securities claims.
Earlier this month, Cox, a Republican, sided with the two Democratic commissioners in asking the Solicitor General's office to support shareholders in another Supreme Court case involving the liability of bankers, vendors, and accountants who help companies defraud investors. That recommendation was opposed by other Bush administration officials and business groups.
Meanwhile, business representatives and some lawmakers are urging the SEC to ease the internal control requirements of Section 404 of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act and to exempt smaller companies. Companies complain that compliance costs are too high and that Section 404 leads to needless duplication of work. The SEC will be taking public and industry comments until July 12 on a proposal to streamline auditing standards.
For more information on the hearing, visit here.
Despite criticism of the SEC from both investors and companies, Rep. Barney Frank, the Massachusetts Democrat who chairs the House panel, stresses that the hearing is merely exploratory. "The fact that we're having a hearing doesn't mean that we've come to any negative conclusions" he told the Washington Post.