CEOs: Don't Sweat New SEC Commissioners

Last Updated Apr 11, 2008 12:19 PM EDT

CEOs probably don't have much to fear from the two new Democratic nominees to the U.S Securities & Exchange Commission. While both individuals have solid records, they are not seen to be boat rockers and are unlikely to do much to push the agenda of shareholder rights advocates.

Nominee Luis A. Aguilar, an Atlanta lawyer who is general counsel to INVESCO, institutional investor group with $380 billion in assets, is regarded as an expert on mutual funds. Such a background could be useful since the SEC is under pressure from Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson and his plans to revamp financial regulation and perhaps eventually dismantle the SEC.

While the SEC has come up with modest steps to regulate mutual funds, it has maintained a "hands off" policy on complicated hedge funds, which critics blame for part of the current economic turmoil. Whether Aguilar will lead any kind of regulatory charge isn't plain. For years, he was an outspoken and pro-business critic of the Sarbanes-Oxley law.

Less seems clear about nominee Elisse B. Walter, a former SEC lawyer and official at the National Association of Securities Dealers, which helps self-regulate the securities industry. While respected, she is regarded as politically-savvy operative who doesn't challenge authority.

Another reason why the C-Suite needn't get too upset is that one of the biggest fights at the SEC is over. With Democrat Commissioner Annette Nazareth holding forth on the side of shareholders, the SECs Republicans â€" Christopher Cox, Paul S. Atkins and Kathleen Casey -- pushed a key vote in December that effectively lets management continue to block shareholders efforts to push their own board candidates. The other Democrat on the commissioner, Roel Campos, had resigned last September.

With the presidential campaigns in full swing, commission isn't in a position to push many bold policies in the short term. For one thing, they are likely to be busy fighting Paulson's plan behind the scenes, even though many analysts have already declared it D.O.A.