SEC Names Webster Accounting Board Chairman

October 25, 2002 ( - As widely expected, a bitterly divided US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) held an emotional Friday meeting to name the members of the new accounting oversight board and narrowly elected William Webster chairman.

Two SEC commissioners, both Democrats, stood by John Biggs, the former TIAA-CREF head who was rumored to be the early choice of SEC Chairman Harvey Pitt. Friday, Pitt angrily denied ever offering the job to Biggs and insisted that Webster, former CIA and FBI chief, was the best choice, according to news reports.

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Democrats Harvey Goldschmid and Roel Campos said the move to tap Webster to head the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board at least left the impression that the SEC was overly sensitive to the accounting industry’s demands, according to CBS Marketwatch. Webster was elected in a 3-2 vote.

Biggs has long been an advocate of better policing the accounting industry and restoring investor confidence in the wake of the past year’s corporate scandals. The 78-year-old Webster, a former federal judge, now works in the Washington office of Milbank, Tweed, Hadley & McCloy.

Four other members of the board were also approved as expected Friday:

  • Kayla Gillan, former general counsel of the California Public Employees’ Retirement System
  • Daniel Goelzer, former SEC general counsel
  • Willis Gradison Jr., former nine-term Republican congressman from Ohio
  • Charles Niemeier, chief accountant for the SEC’s enforcement division.

The watchdog group, the centerpiece of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act signed into law July 30, will end the industry’s much criticized peer-review process.

For more information about the new panel, see the SEC Web site.