was the 25th Chairman of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission
. He was first appointed by President Bill Clinton
in July, 1993, and reappointed to a second five-year term in May, 1998. Levitt did not complete his second term - instead choosing to retire in February 2001 - but is still the longest-serving chairman in the history of the SEC
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 AMEX, Mr. Levitt worked for 16 years on Wall Street. He graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Williams College in 1952 before serving for two years in the Air Force.
During his tenure, Chairman Levitt prided himself on being an advocate for the individual investor. He pushed the SEC to pursue initiatives and enact rules that would level the playing field, providing the individual investor with the same investment opportunities and the same quality of information as stock analysts and institutional investors.
Under Levitt, prospectuses were required to be written in "plain English," rather than legalese or accounting jargon -- so investors could understand and make independent, informed decisions. He also instituted Full Disclosure, a rule requiring companies to provide the same information to the public as they give to investment bank analysts. This regulation was spurred by a number of high-profile cases in which well-known companies leaked key information to analysts before making it publicly known.
One of Levitt's major defeats was with his proposed Auditor Independence Rules. These rules sought to protect the integrity of financial reporting by banning accounting firms from performing additional services for companies they are auditing, namely consulting -- precisely the sort of dual relationship Arthur Andersen had with Enron. But Levitt's efforts were beaten back by a furious political campaign by the accounting industry who were led by their chief lobbyist, Harvey Pitt.
When Arthur Levitt retired, President George W. Bush named as his successor none other than -- Harvey Pitt. A move that conservative pundit Arianna Huffington has called, "a little like naming Osama bin Laden to run the Office of Homeland Security."