Oral Histories


"Rules are very blunt instruments, and markets evolve, activities evolve. Rules are not written to fit all these specific activities. You can have an activity that technically violates a rule, but doesn't cause the harm the rule was trying to prevent. It often can be a very useful and legitimate activity, whether to conduct a transaction or a certain trading activity, and a no-action letter can allow that useful market activity to get done, while at the same time, preserving the protections that the rule was designed for. You can build in conditions, and you're giving relief based on certain representations, so it's a way to further scope the rules and make the rules like a laser rather than a shotgun. So the process is a good one."

- July 15, 2014 Interview with James Brigagliano

James Brigagliano, former co-Acting Director of the SEC Division of Trading and Markets, is the inaugural subject of Sidley Austin LLP's multi-year commitment to the virtual museum and archive to sponsor oral histories interviews with persons significant to financial regulation.

Mr. Brigagliano is a partner with Sidley Austin LLP and Washington coordinator of the firm's Securities and Derivatives Enforcement and Regulatory group.


Washington Public Power Supply System Default

Washington Public Power Supply System Directors in the Spotlight (courtesy Washington State Archives)

“Indicative of the complexity of the litigation spawned by WPPSS’s difficulties is the fact that the U.S. Justice Department is establishing a special office in Portland for the purpose of defending the suits against Bonneville. Staffing the office will be at least four lawyers and eight to ten paralegals. To assist them in trial preparation, some 1.1 million Bonneville documents from government warehouses throughout the Pacific Northwest are being microfilmed and put into a computer; and it is estimated that, in addition, they will have assembled and will examine 4-5 million WPPSS documents. Lawyers joining this office are being told to expect to stay in Portland at least four years.”

- November 22, 1983 Report to Governor John Spellman, Washington and Governor Victor Atiyeh, Oregon from the Governors’ Advisory Panel on WPPSS

The Washington Public Power Supply System (WPPSS) began in the 1950s as a means to guarantee electric power to homes and industry in the Pacific Northwest, believing that nuclear power plants were the best way to supply clean and cheap energy to customers.

Changing opinions on nuclear energy, construction delays and overruns, and mismanagement combined in the early 1980s to produce the largest-to-date municipal bond default in U.S. history. WPPSS’s acronym, pronounced “whoops,” became representative of the system’s failure. The museum adds papers on WPPSS’s rise and fall.

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