The ties that bind…

May 24, 2007

images8.jpegNow the secret can be told: former SEC Chairman Arthur Levitt was a secret devotee of Ebay (EBAY) when he was running the agency. During a roundtable of former chairmen held yesterday evening at the SEC — the video archive will be available here sometime soon — Levitt said he used to sell some of his old ties on Ebay and that as a joke, some of his staffers purchased them and then walked into his office wearing his former ties. One way to look at this is that the SEC — and the staff — know how to waste time online when they’re supposed to be working just like the rest of us do.

What? You expected some actual news from the second annual “Roundtable of Past Chairmen?” At times the hour-long forum, which attracted two fewer participants than the first roundtable held back in Dec. 2005, felt like the strays table at a wedding where nobody knows one another and as a result is afraid to say anything that could be considered remotely controversial. Indeed, when Chris Cox kicked off the session, it took a few minutes for Levitt to break the ice with his fascinating Ebay story.

Thankfully, former Chairman Bill Donaldson jumped in with something a bit more serious when he said he was growing increasingly concerned about “pooled equity” — specifically private equity and hedge funds. “There’s no jurisdiction over them and they’re an increasingly important force,” Donaldson said. “I see them as a ticking time bomb that is going to blow up at some point.” Former Chairmen Harvey Pitt and David Ruder, who oversaw the agency during the 1989 market crash, also chimed in. And Levitt took a swipe at Congress when he said that “when we have the next blow-up, Congress will step in and in characteristic fashion, do something draconian.” But Cox was strangely silent on the issue. And Richard Breeden, who now runs an activist fund, didn’t make it to the event.

Don’t expect the webcast to make it to the top of YouTube anytime soon. Even Bloomberg only managed to eek out five paragraphs on yesterday’s events. And there’s no sign that Dow Jones or Reuters bothered to cover the event. We can’t hardly wait for the next roundtable. Be sure to mark your calendars for November 2008!

And, yes, I know that the site is loading weirdly today. Trying to fix it now!

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