Beller joins new, user-friendly SEC

The latest appointment at the US SEC reveals the extent to which the regulator is refashioning itself.

New appointments at the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) do not usually get Asian financial editors very excited. But the news yesterday that Alan Beller is to join the SEC as Director of the Division of Corporation Finance as well as Senior Counsel to the Commission is very interesting. It shows how serious the new-look SEC is in becoming more market minded when it comes to the regulation of the US capital markets.

Beller is a leading international securities and derivatives lawyer who has been a partner at US law firm Cleary, Gottlieb, Steen & Hamilton since 1984. This crucially means that he will bring fresh winds of commercial sense into the fusty old world of the SEC. He is the author of US Regulation of the International Securities and Derivatives Markets, which despite is dull name is commonly referred to as the bible of international securities law. According to securities lawyers in town, this worthy tome sits on more desks than even the most ambitious paralegal.

More important for Asian market participants is Beller's international outlook. He has spent considerable parts of his career outside the US, notably in Paris and Tokyo. This international mindset will come as a relief to many issuers and their bankers who have faced the parochial attitude to all things non-American from US regulators and investors.

His high-profile appointment perhaps has little explicit impact on the Asian financial markets. Nevertheless, it confirms that new SEC Chairman Harvey Pitt is determined to turn the SEC into the market's partner, rather than the market's paranoia - as it has been in the past.

In the announcement of Beller's appointment, Pitt is quoted as saying: "the reform of the way in which capital is raised and corporate disclosures are made and disseminated is the most critical project on our current agenda."

This is a marked move away from the overly legalistic and paternalistic view of the old SEC. And while it might mean less blanket protection for Mr and Mrs Joe Schmo Investor in provincial USA, it is definitely good news for Asian issuers and their bankers wishing to do deals in the US capital markets.