On October 9, Rep. Barney Frank (D. Mass.) spoke to SEC employees at the invitation of Chapter 293. He appeared at the Boston Regional Office and his remarks were video-conferenced to all of the SEC’s offices. Congressman Frank is the Chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, which oversees, among other things, the SEC and other entities, such as the NYSE and the NASD, which police the securities markets.
Of particular interest to SEC employees was Rep. Frank’s announcement at the beginning of his speech that new legislation would soon be introduced in Congress to raise the current five percent cap on the SEC's matching contributions to TSP accounts. This key legislation will be the first step towards significantly increasing the retirement benefits of SEC employees.
Over the summer, Chapter 293 officials had urged the SEC to meet its commitment to increase employee retirement benefits under the authority granted to the agency in the 2002 Investor and Capital Markets Relief Act. That legislation authorized the SEC to provide benefits to its employees comparable to those enjoyed by other financial regulatory agencies, several of which already provide significant supplemental retirement benefits to their employees. However, senior SEC management showed little interest in working on this issue, despite the fact that it had agreed, during recent compensation negotiations, to assist NTEU in accomplishing this goal.
Congressman Frank noted that Chapter 293 informed him of the need for new retirement match legislation – and also let him know that the SEC was not taking the steps necessary to honor its commitment. He responded by raising the issue directly with SEC Chairman Christopher Cox, and the agency is now cooperating with NTEU's efforts to pass the necessary legislation. Rep. Frank stated that he firmly believes that this legislation is required to help maintain the agency's competitiveness vis a vis the private sector in attracting and retaining high quality employees to do the important work of the SEC.
Congressman Frank also spoke on a broad range of policy issues of interest to SEC employees. He talked about his perception that, during the past twelve months, there has been dramatic change in how Washington and the rest of the country view regulation. He noted that the prevailing view used to be that regulatory requirements were driving companies overseas but now, with the collapse of the subprime mortgage market, people are coming to a better understanding of the need for regulation. He noted that increased innovative activities in the financial markets frequently benefit society, but also pose dangers that require sufficient regulatory oversight by agencies such as the SEC. He also expressed his concerns about highly leveraged pools of unregulated capital in the markets, such as in hedge funds, and their potential impact upon the economy.
Rep. Frank's visit was well received by the large number of SEC employees in agency offices across the country who attended via video-conference.