- WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Harvey
Pitt, the embattled chairman of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission,
resigned on Tuesday night, citing the turmoil surrounding his tenure.
- Pitt has been engulfed in controversy since he took over
as chairman of the securities watchdog 15 months ago.
- He came under heavy fire this week for failing to tell
SEC commissioners -- and the White House -- that his choice to head a new
accounting board, William Webster, was a director and audit committee chairman
of a company facing accusations of fraud in lawsuits.
- "It is with deep regret that I have decided to tender
my resignation to you as chairman, and a member, of the Securities and
Exchange Commission, effective as soon as I can help your staff ensure
a smooth transition of leadership," Pitt said in a letter to President
- White House spokeswoman Claire Buchan said Bush accepted
Pitt's resignation. "We did have indications he was considering this
over the last couple of days," Buchan said.
- In his letter, Pitt said: "Unfortunately the turmoil
surrounding my chairmanship and the agency makes it very difficult for
the commissioners and dedicated SEC staffers to perform their critical
assignments. Rather than be a burden to you or the agency, I feel it is
in everyone's best interest if I step aside now, to allow the agency to
continue the important efforts we have started."
- SEC spokeswoman Christi Harlan said of Pitt: "He
has tendered his resignation to the president. He'll stay on through a
- She said no interim chairman has been named to replace
Pitt. Possible successors could include a former top SEC lawyer James Doty,
corporate lawyer Gary Lynch or former federal judge Stanley Sporkin, sources
said earlier this week.
- A spokeswoman for Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle,
a South Dakota Democrat, said Pitt had done the right thing by stepping
- "Senator Daschle has called for this for quite some
time," said Daschle spokeswoman Ranit Schmelzer. "We think it's
appropriate that he stepped down, and now we hope they will replace him
with someone who is a true steward of the SEC."
- The announcement that Pitt would step down came as Bush
was watching Election Day television returns.
- Pitt's resignation came after White House officials lost
confidence in him amid the new controversy over the accounting board, which
was set up to crack down on auditors and bolster market confidence after
a rash of business scandals that started last fall with energy trader Enron
- On Oct. 25, with the support of Pitt and two other Republican
SEC commissioners, the 78-year-old Webster won a bitterly split, 3-2 party-line
SEC vote to become the first chairman of the Public Company Accounting
- Six days after the vote, it emerged that Webster had
been the audit committee chairman of U.S. Technologies Inc, a small, Washington-based
company that is facing accusations of fraud.
- The accounting board controversy was not Pitt's first
brush with trouble. Last summer, White House officials made clear their
displeasure with him when he sought a pay raise and a promotion.
- Pitt canceled a speech in New York earlier on Tuesday,
and was slated to speak at the Securities Industry Association annual meeting
on Friday. Also, on Wednesday Pitt was slated to preside over an open meeting
at the SEC to consider new rules for corporate attorneys.