Securities and Exchange Commission Historical Society

The Bright Image: The SEC, 1961-1973

Revitalizing the SEC

Chairman Cary

“I am much afraid that if Mr. Cohen is not appointed a Commissioner in tribute to his twenty years of service, he will accept one of the many lucrative offers I know he has received.  If he leaves, there will be a marked drop in the effectiveness of this Commission.”
- July 6, 1961 memo from SEC Chairman William L. Cary to The White House

The appointment of Columbia Law Professor William L. Cary as SEC Chairman in 1961 profoundly changed the SEC and securities law. Cary, the author of what was then the most widely-used law school casebook on corporations, was highly respected among his colleagues across the country.

Cary encouraged Kennedy to appoint Manuel Cohen and Philip Loomis, two of the SEC's most respected staffers, to the Commission. Kennedy selected Cohen, but not Loomis, instead naming a former Senate colleague -- J. Allen Frear, Jr. -- to the Commission.

Cary did succeed in having Jack Whitney appointed and Byron Woodside re-appointed as Commissioners, agreeing with Kennedy that the revitalization of the SEC would require the best and brightest personnel in order to be effective.

One of Cary's early goals was to increase funding for the SEC. Using the results of the Landis study which described the "budget starvation" of the Eisenhower years, Cary persuaded the Bureau of the Budget to add 250 new employees to the SEC staff. Cary would use those employees, much as SEC Chairmen had done during the New Deal, to conduct policy studies in areas where regulation might be most effective.

1961 was not 1934, however, and the new administration had a thin electoral margin in Congress. Cary realized that in order to be most effective, the SEC would have to cooperate with some of the leaders in the industry it regulated. "If none of the industry's spokesmen feel there is a need and complaints mount," Cary commented in considering the implementation of the Special Study's recommendations, "Congressmen are likely to intervene and commence inquiry, and a committee may either stall the proposal or kill it."(4) Political pragmatism and administrative innovation would typify Cary's response to the issues facing the SEC during his tenure.

<<Previous Next >>


(4) Joel Seligman, The Transformation of Wall Street (Aspen Publishers: New York, 2003), 292.

Related Museum Resources


February 5, 1961
image jpg (Courtesy of the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library)
June 30, 1961
27th Annual Report of the Securities and Exchange Commission

(Government Records)

July 6, 1961
transcript pdf (Courtesy of the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library)
May 28, 1962
image pdf (Courtesy of the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library)
July 5, 1962
transcript pdf (Courtesy of the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library)


May 29, 1962
Testifying before the U.S. House of Representatives
(With permission of AP/Wide World Photos; use restricted to virtual museum and archive at )

Oral Histories

21 May 2007

Arthur Fleischer

27 February 2004

Leonard Leiman

06 August 2002

David Ratner

Permission for Use

The virtual museum and archive is copyrighted by the SEC Historical Society. The Society reserves the right to restrict access to or use of the museum by any user at any time.

Users are prohibited from sharing or downloading any material for publication or commercial purposes without written permission from the Executive Director. Requests for permission must be submitted by email and specify the material requested and for what purpose.

Material used with the Society's permission should be credited to: