More than three years after the Dodd-Frank Act ordered its creation, the SEC announced the opening of the Office of Investor Advocate yesterday.
Rick Fleming, associate deputy of the North American Securities Administrators Association, was named the office's director.
Barbara Roper, head of investor protection at the Consumer Federation of America and vice chair of the SEC Investor Advisory Committee, said Fleming has the challenge of establishing the office's credibility internally at the Securities and Exchange Commission and externally to investors and industry.
With a mandate to report directly to the SEC chairman and Congress, Roper said the unit has the tool to be an effective force for investors.
One of the problems she pointed to is a feeling at the agency that the office is superfluous, that the staffers at the regulator who generally come from industry and return to industry view themselves as investor advocates.
But crowdfunding, general solicitation and other recent trends increasing risks to investors, Roper said there is a desperate need to insure investor concerns are incorporated in rule writing.
Former SEC Chief Accountant and Sarbanes Oxley Act co-author Lynne Turner said SEC Chairman Mary Jo White should be given kudos for hiring a director of the office when her two immediate predecessors, Mary Schapiro and Elisse Walter, did not.
Adequate funding and the hiring of the right people will be necessary to make the unit a force within the agency, he said.
“Not only do you have to have enough people, you have to have people who are strong supporters of investors which, has not always been the case" at the SEC, said Turner.