New SEC chief pushes dramatic budget increase to grow agency

Still, the SEC has seen its responsibilities increase with the enactment the sweeping Dodd-Frank financial reform bill, and White said a corresponding budget increase is required to carry out a set of duties she described as “vast, difficult and complex.”

“The agency’s funding request is critical to support the additional staff, technology and training needed to fulfill our mission,” White told members of a House Appropriations subcommittee.

The increase would help the SEC bring aboard 676 economists and other workers to improve current operations and implement new congressionally mandated duties.

Under questioning from members of the panel, White said the SEC had completed roughly 80 percent of the regulatory work required by Dodd-Frank. The law calls for more than 90 new rules at the SEC.

White’s request raised concerns among Republican members of the Financial Services and General Government subcommittee, including its chairman, Rep. Ander Crenshaw (R-Fla.). Crenshaw noted that the SEC’s fiscal 2013 budget itself reflects a significant increase.

“Most agencies don’t get this kind of increase every year,” Crenshaw said. “When is enough going to be enough?”

White sought to allay the concerns by emphasizing the portion of the expanded budget that would go toward cost-benefit analysis of new rules – a priority among Republicans critical of the Obama administration’s aggressive regulatory policies.

The added funding would allow the SEC to bring 45 new staff members – primarily economists – aboard in the commission’s Division of Risk, Strategy and Financial Innovation. That would reflect a 45-percent increase to the division tasked with measuring the costs of new rules.

White said the agency would look to hire people with expertise in high-frequency trading, credit-default swaps, executive pay and other previously unregulated areas that have fallen under scrutiny following the economic crisis.

White, who has been on the job for less than a month, received backing from the subcommittee’s top Democrat, José E. Serrano of New York.

Serrano lamented the loss of $108 million in sequester-imposed spending cuts at the SEC and urged his GOP colleagues to support the commission’s request.

“It is an unwise investment choice to reduce funding for an agency that plays a key role in ensuring a fair playing field in our financial markets,” Serrano said.

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