431 Days: Joseph P. Kennedy and the Creation of the SEC (1934-35)

Building an Institution

The Commissioners

Kennedy's first task was to create an effective team out of a diverse group of Commissioners whose background and expertise defined the boundaries of the American reform tradition. He was also determined to give them latitude to work. Of Landis and Pecora he said, "They know more about this law than I ever hope to know. They put their blood into it." (Ritchie, 61) Kennedy gave Landis, the academic, supervision of studies and reports as well as the writing of regulations and opinions. Ferdinand Pecora supervised the trading division, the investigative arm of the SEC.

The Securities Exchange Act required a bipartisan Commission. The two Republicans appointed by Roosevelt were highly experienced: George C. Mathews had directed the Wisconsin Public Utilities Commission before joining the FTC; and Robert E. Healy sat on the Vermont Supreme Court and ran an FTC investigation of public utility holding companies before joining the Commission.

Not surprisingly, some conflict arose during the sessions that the Commission held nearly every day during its first three months. Pecora continually pushed for a more adversarial approach, hoping that further revelations would lead to greater reform. Owing to his public utilities knowledge, Healy sympathized, but sided with Kennedy in the end. Landis and Mathews both agreed with the Chairman that the SEC could best establish its legitimacy and further constructive reform by easing regulations and accommodating business.

Although he respected the Chairman's abilities, Pecora tired of being in the minority and resigned after six months. For the remainder of Kennedy's tenure, the four Commissioners handled the heavy load alone.

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Related Museum Resources

Papers

June 14, 1934
transcript pdf (with permission of the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Library and Museum)
June 15, 1934
image pdf (with permission of the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Library and Museum)
June 30, 1934
document pdf (with permission of the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Library and Museum)
July 8, 1934
transcript pdf (Courtesy of the Library of Congress)
January 18, 1935
transcript pdf (with permission of the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Library and Museum)
January 22, 1935
image pdf (Courtesy of the National Archives)
January 28, 1935
transcript pdf (with permission of the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Library and Museum)

Photos

1934
(Courtesy of the Library of Congress )
July 1934

George C. Mathews, James M. Landis and Joseph P. Kennedy

(With permission of the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation )
July 2, 1934

(standing) George C. Mathews and Robert E. Healy; (seated) Ferdinand Pecora, Joseph P. Kennedy and James M. Landis

(Courtesy of the Washington Evening Star Collection, Washingtoniana Division, D.C. Public Library )
1938
(Courtesy of the Washington Evening Star Collection, Washingtoniana Division, D.C. Public Library )

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