Securities and Exchange Commission Historical Society

In the Midst of Revolution: The SEC, 1973-1981

First Linking Buyers and Sellers

Momentum for Change Slows

- April 27, 1979 "I'm Going to Give It To You Straight – I Don't Have Any Idea What I'm Doing," Herblock, Copyright by The Herb Block Foundation

Having the authority, however, did not mean that the SEC would use it. When Harold Williams became SEC Chairman, the country's mood for revolutionary change had cooled. The economic crisis of high unemployment, high inflation and rising interest rates dampened demands for immediate change to the market system, which many believed remained economically fragile.(36)

Rejecting revolutionary change, SEC Chairman Williams took a go-slow approach, relying on SEC and industry negotiation and cooperation, balancing the political influence of the SEC against calls from Congress for mandated change. Williams believed that the SEC was ill-suited "by experience or disposition" to serve as a "planner for industry."(37) He favored industry and market forces instead of SEC mandate to create the system. As a result, it appeared that securities industry experts were taking the lead in the design and implementation of the system.

But it was not merely the deliberate approach from the SEC that delayed implementation of the central market system. President Carter's view of the SEC and its role as a regulator of the markets stands in sharp contrast to his other initiatives to regulate the economy. Although willing to consider price and wage controls, President Carter took a hands-off approach to the SEC.

His archives provide clues as to why he took that approach. The public worries about inflation meant that that issue would remain the single most important of his Presidency. But nearly as important was Carter's belief that the SEC was a non-partisan agency, and that once he made his appointments, he should refrain from attempts to influence its policies. He respected the SEC and its staff and believed that the SEC and the markets could manage without his political influence and interference. After appointing Williams as SEC Chairman, Carter remained mostly neutral on SEC regulatory matters.

While this does not fully explain the deliberate approach of the SEC under Chairman Williams on the creation of a national market system, it does help explain how the momentum for change began to slow to a trickle from 1977 to 1980. By then, Congress once again was taking the lead, criticizing the agency for its inaction and lack of leadership. The danger, stated the House Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations after studying the SEC's role in the creation of the central market system, "is that the Commission will be led by the strongest, most persistent voices in the industry rather than by its own independent assessment of the systems and rules necessary," leading to superficial instead of fundamental changes necessary to provide the best price most efficiently to investors.(38)

Chairman Williams had to balance those competing interests and voices inside and outside the SEC, always aware that the substantial changes being proposed could do great damage if poorly implemented.

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Footnotes:

(36) W. Carl Biven, Jimmy Carter's Economy: Policy in an Age of Limits (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2002)

(37) Judith Miller, "S.E.C. Chief a Policy Enigma," The New York Times, May 19, 1974, D1

(38) House Committee, Print 96-IFC 56, 96th Congress, 2nd Session, (1980)


Related Museum Resources

Papers

December 23, 1976
image pdf (Courtesy of the Jimmy Carter Library and Museum)
December 28, 1976
image pdf (Courtesy of the estate of John R. Evans; made possible through a gift from Quinton F. Seamons)
December 28, 1976
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December 30, 1976
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December 31, 1976
image pdf (Courtesy of the Jimmy Carter Library and Museum)
February 7, 1977
image pdf (Courtesy of the estate of John R. Evans; made possible through a gift from Quinton F. Seamons)
February 9, 1977
transcript pdf (Courtesy of the Jimmy Carter Library and Museum)
February 17, 1977
transcript pdf (Courtesy of the Jimmy Carter Library and Museum)
February 18, 1977
image pdf (Courtesy of the Jimmy Carter Library and Museum)
February 21, 1977
image pdf (Courtesy of the estate of John R. Evans; made possible through a gift from Quinton F. Seamons)
February 25, 1977
image pdf (Courtesy of the Jimmy Carter Library and Museum)
March 1, 1977
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March 11, 1977
transcript pdf (Courtesy of the Jimmy Carter Library and Museum)
March 16, 1977
transcript pdf (Courtesy of the Jimmy Carter Library and Museum)
March 22, 1977
transcript pdf (Courtesy of the Jimmy Carter Library and Museum)
March 29, 1977
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April 6, 1977
transcript pdf (Courtesy of the Jimmy Carter Library and Museum)
April 8, 1977
image pdf (Courtesy of the Jimmy Carter Library and Museum)
April 14, 1977
transcript pdf (Courtesy of the Jimmy Carter Library and Museum)
April 15, 1977
image pdf (Courtesy of the Jimmy Carter Library and Museum)
June 20, 1977
image pdf (Courtesy of the Library of Congress)
July 14, 1977
image pdf (Courtesy of the estate of John R. Evans; made possible through a gift from Quinton F. Seamons)
July 14, 1977
image pdf (Courtesy of the estate of John R. Evans; made possible through a gift from Quinton F. Seamons)
August 1977
image pdf (Courtesy of the estate of Mollie B. Zion)
August 5, 1977
document pdf (Courtesy of the estate of John Evans)
August 26, 1977
image pdf (Arthur F. Burns Papers, Courtesy of the Gerald R. Ford Library)
September 13, 1977
document pdf (Courtesy of the estate of John Evans)
September 13, 1977
image pdf (Courtesy of the estate of John R. Evans; made possible through a gift from Quinton F. Seamons)
September 28, 1977
image pdf (Courtesy of the estate of John R. Evans; made possible through a gift from Quinton F. Seamons)
October 5, 1977
image pdf (Courtesy of the Jimmy Carter Library and Museum)
October 17, 1977
transcript pdf (Courtesy of the Jimmy Carter Library and Museum)
November 11, 1977
image pdf (Courtesy of the estate of John R. Evans; made possible through a gift from Quinton F. Seamons)
November 21, 1977
document pdf (Courtesy of the estate of John Evans)
November 29, 1977
image pdf (Courtesy of the estate of John R. Evans; made possible through a gift from Quinton F. Seamons)
December 12, 1977
image pdf (Courtesy of the estate of John R. Evans; made possible through a gift from Quinton F. Seamons)
December 12, 1977
document pdf (Courtesy of Richard Rowe)
January 5, 1978
document pdf (Courtesy of the estate of John Evans)
January 6, 1978
image pdf (Courtesy of the Jimmy Carter Library and Museum)
January 28, 1978
transcript pdf (Courtesy of the estate of John R. Evans; made possible through a gift from Quinton F. Seamons)
January 30, 1978
transcript pdf (Courtesy of the Jimmy Carter Library and Museum)
February 23, 1978
transcript pdf (Courtesy of the estate of John R. Evans; made possible through a gift from Quinton F. Seamons)
March 3, 1978
transcript pdf (Courtesy of the estate of John R. Evans; made possible through a gift from Quinton F. Seamons)
March 23, 1978
transcript pdf (Courtesy of the Jimmy Carter Library and Museum)
April 1978
transcript pdf (Courtesy of the Jimmy Carter Library and Museum)
April 12, 1978
transcript pdf (Courtesy of the Jimmy Carter Library and Museum)
May 2, 1978
image pdf (Courtesy of the estate of John R. Evans; made possible through a gift from Quinton F. Seamons)
May 15, 1978
transcript pdf (Courtesy of the estate of John R. Evans; made possible through a gift from Quinton F. Seamons)
May 17, 1978
transcript pdf (Courtesy of the estate of John R. Evans; made possible through a gift from Quinton F. Seamons)
May 17, 1978
image pdf (Courtesy of the estate of John R. Evans; made possible through a gift from Quinton F. Seamons)
May 19, 1978
image pdf (Courtesy of the Jimmy Carter Library and Museum)
May 20, 1978
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May 30, 1978
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June 6, 1978
image pdf (Courtesy of the estate of John R. Evans; made possible through a gift from Quinton F. Seamons)
June 13, 1978
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June 14, 1978
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June 14, 1978
image pdf (Courtesy of the estate of John R. Evans; made possible through a gift from Quinton F. Seamons)
June 20, 1978
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June 21, 1978
document pdf (Courtesy of the estate of John Evans)
June 28, 1978
document pdf (Courtesy of the estate of John Evans)
July to August 1978
document pdf (Courtesy of Theodore Levine)
July 11, 1978
document pdf (Courtesy of the estate of John Evans)
July 17, 1978
image pdf (Courtesy of the estate of John R. Evans; made possible through a gift from Quinton F. Seamons)
July 19, 1978
image pdf (Courtesy of the Jimmy Carter Library and Museum)
August 1, 1978
transcript pdf (Courtesy of the Jimmy Carter Library and Museum)
August 21, 1978
image pdf (Courtesy of the Jimmy Carter Library and Museum)
August 23, 1978
image pdf (Courtesy of the estate of John R. Evans; made possible through a gift from Quinton F. Seamons)
September 12, 1978
image pdf (Courtesy of the estate of John R. Evans; made possible through a gift from Quinton F. Seamons)
September 30, 1978
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October 2, 1978
image pdf (Courtesy of the Jimmy Carter Library and Museum)
October 5, 1978
image pdf (Courtesy of the Library of Congress)
October 19, 1978
image pdf (Courtesy of the Jimmy Carter Library and Museum)
November 14, 1978
image pdf (Courtesy of the Jimmy Carter Library and Museum)
December 28, 1978
image pdf (Courtesy of the Jimmy Carter Library and Museum)
January 17, 1979
image pdf (Courtesy of the Jimmy Carter Library and Museum)
March 2, 1979
document pdf (Courtesy of the estate of John Evans)
March 2, 1979
document pdf (Courtesy of the estate of John Evans)
March 2, 1979
document pdf (Courtesy of Theodore A. Levine)
March 30, 1979
image pdf (Courtesy of the estate of John R. Evans; made possible through a gift from Quinton F. Seamons)
April 3, 1979
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April 5, 1979
image pdf (Government Records)
April 23, 1979
image pdf (Government Records)
May 3, 1979
transcript pdf (Courtesy of the Jimmy Carter Library and Museum)
May 16, 1979
image pdf (Courtesy of the Jimmy Carter Library and Museum)
June 7, 1979
document pdf (Courtesy of the estate of John R. Evans; made possible through a gift from Quinton F. Seamons)
June 8, 1979
image pdf (Courtesy of the estate of John R. Evans; made possible through a gift from Quinton F. Seamons)
June 8, 1979
image pdf (Courtesy of the estate of John R. Evans; made possible through a gift from Quinton F. Seamons)
June 8, 1979
image pdf (Courtesy of the estate of John R. Evans; made possible through a gift from Quinton F. Seamons)
June 8, 1979
image pdf (Courtesy of the estate of John R. Evans; made possible through a gift from Quinton F. Seamons)
June 8, 1979
image pdf (Courtesy of the estate of John R. Evans; made possible through a gift from Quinton F. Seamons)
June 11, 1979
image pdf (Courtesy of the estate of John R. Evans; made possible through a gift from Quinton F. Seamons)
June 12, 1979
image pdf (Courtesy of the estate of John R. Evans; made possible through a gift from Quinton F. Seamons)
June 12, 1979
image pdf (Courtesy of the estate of John R. Evans; made possible through a gift from Quinton F. Seamons)
June 12, 1979
image pdf (Courtesy of the estate of John R. Evans; made possible through a gift from Quinton F. Seamons)
June 13, 1979
image pdf (Courtesy of the estate of John R. Evans; made possible through a gift from Quinton F. Seamons)
June 13, 1979
image pdf (Courtesy of the estate of John R. Evans; made possible through a gift from Quinton F. Seamons)
June 13, 1979
image pdf (Courtesy of the estate of John R. Evans; made possible through a gift from Quinton F. Seamons)
June 13, 1979
image pdf (Courtesy of the estate of John R. Evans; made possible through a gift from Quinton F. Seamons)
June 15, 1979
image pdf (Courtesy of the estate of John R. Evans; made possible through a gift from Quinton F. Seamons)
June 18, 1979
transcript pdf (Courtesy of the Jimmy Carter Library and Museum)
June 19, 1979
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June 19, 1979
image pdf (Courtesy of the estate of John R. Evans; made possible through a gift from Quinton F. Seamons)
June 22, 1979
image pdf (Courtesy of the estate of John R. Evans; made possible through a gift from Quinton F. Seamons)
July 2, 1979
image pdf (Courtesy of the estate of John R. Evans; made possible through a gift from Quinton F. Seamons)
September 26, 1979
image pdf (Courtesy of the Jimmy Carter Library and Museum)
September 30, 1979
image pdf (Government Records)
October 22, 1979
image pdf (Courtesy of the estate of John R. Evans; made possible through a gift from Quinton F. Seamons)
October 22, 1979
image pdf (Courtesy of the estate of John R. Evans; made possible through a gift from Quinton F. Seamons)
October 24, 1979
image pdf (Courtesy of the estate of John R. Evans; made possible through a gift from Quinton F. Seamons)
November 1, 1979
image pdf (Courtesy of the estate of John R. Evans; made possible through a gift from Quinton F. Seamons)
December 6, 1979
image pdf (Courtesy of the estate of John R. Evans; made possible through a gift from Quinton F. Seamons)
December 18, 1979
image pdf (Courtesy of the Jimmy Carter Library and Museum)
January 21, 1980
image pdf (Courtesy of the Jimmy Carter Library and Museum)
February 1, 1980
image pdf (Government Records)
February 1, 1980
image pdf (Courtesy of the estate of John R. Evans; made possible through a gift from Quinton F. Seamons)
February 4, 1980
image pdf (Courtesy of the Jimmy Carter Library and Museum)
February 14, 1980
image pdf (Courtesy of the estate of John R. Evans; made possible through a gift from Quinton F. Seamons)
February 27, 1980
image pdf (Courtesy of the estate of John R. Evans; made possible through a gift from Quinton F. Seamons)
March 6, 1980
image pdf (Courtesy of the estate of John R. Evans; made possible through a gift from Quinton F. Seamons)
March 7, 1980
image pdf (Government Records)
March 17, 1980
image pdf (Government Records)
March 27, 1980
image pdf (Courtesy of the estate of John R. Evans; made possible through a gift from Quinton F. Seamons)
April 19, 1980
image pdf (Courtesy of the Jimmy Carter Library and Museum)
April 22, 1980
image pdf (Government Records)
April 23, 1980
image pdf (Government Records)
April 28, 1980
transcript pdf (Courtesy of the Jimmy Carter Library and Museum)
June 3, 1980
image pdf (Government Records)
June 5, 1980
image pdf (Government Records)
June 5, 1980
transcript pdf (Courtesy of the estate of John R. Evans)
June 10, 1980
image pdf (Government Records)
June 18, 1980
transcript pdf (Courtesy of the estate of John R. Evans)
September 5, 1980
image pdf (Courtesy of the Jimmy Carter Library and Museum)
September 8, 1980
image pdf (Government Records)
September 9, 1980
image pdf (Government Records)
October 3, 1980
image pdf (Government Records)
December 5, 1980
image pdf (Courtesy of the Jimmy Carter Library and Museum)
January 2, 1981
image pdf (Courtesy of the Jimmy Carter Library and Museum)
January 8, 1981
image pdf (Courtesy of the Jimmy Carter Library and Museum)
January 10, 1981
image pdf (Courtesy of the Jimmy Carter Library and Museum)
February 2, 1981
image pdf (Courtesy of the Jimmy Carter Library and Museum)

Photos

November 1977

Philip A. Loomis, Jr., Harold M. Williams, John R. Evans and Irving M. Pollack

June 9, 1980

Irving M. Pollack, Philip A. Loomis, Jr., Harold M. Williams, John R. Evans and Stephen J. Friedman

1981
(Courtesy of Charles Leber )
1981
(Courtesy of Charles Leber )

Oral Histories

18 February 2009

Stephen Friedman

14 April 2008

Daniel Goelzer

25 February 2009

Willis Riccio

19 January 2006

Harold Williams

07 January 2004

William Wood

  • - Part 1
  • - Part 2
  • edited transcript (pdf)

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