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SEC nominee will tackle fraud

The Associated Press

WASHINGTON — President Bush’s nominee to head the Securities and Exchange Commission pledged aggressive enforcement of corporate anti-fraud rules and said Wednesday that picking a new chairman for an accounting industry oversight board is his top priority.

At his Senate confirmation hearing, Wall Street investment banker William H. Donaldson defended his record as a former chairman of the New York Stock Exchange, but softened his opposition to a rule that prohibits companies from disclosing information to financial insiders ahead of the public.

Donaldson, a Bush family friend, pledged to work to rebuild investor confidence shaken by business scandals, and to allow the SEC to fully investigate and prosecute corporate lawbreakers without regard to politics.

Among those accounting failures, Bush’s own transactions as a one-time director of Harken Energy Corp. drew renewed scrutiny and the SEC has been investigating Vice President Dick Cheney’s tenure as chief executive of oil-service company Halliburton Co.

As for the accounting board chief, Donaldson told the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs that selection was “the number one priority that I have ... We’re behind the eight ball.”

The current SEC chairman, Harvey Pitt, announced in November that he was resigning in a flap over his selection of former FBI Director William Webster to head the board. Webster also resigned.

Donaldson, 71, received a friendly reception from senators and is expected to be confirmed soon by the full Senate.