Pitt’s prepared remarks were notable for what he avoided: all but the most oblique reference to the turmoil that marked his term as SEC chief. Instead, he used his speech to encourage students to dedicate themselves to public service and work for “the common good.” Pitt said this was the approach he took in his years as a securities lawyer in private practice. “I counseled clients to work toward the common good,” he said, “encouraging them not just to meet legal standards, but exceed them.”
Despite Pitt’s emphasis on public service, talk of his tenure at the SEC and the accounting scandals of the past year dominated the brief question-and-answer period following his speech. “[Webster] was well qualified and is a remarkable public servant,” Pitt responded to one student’s question. “And we were very, very lucky to be able to get him to be willing to serve.”
Asked if the corporate scandals of the past year showed that the SEC had failed to do its job, Pitt warned against searching for scapegoats. “I don’t think it is productive to try and point the finger and say, ‘Well if the SEC had really been doing its job, this wouldn’t have happened,’ ” Pitt said. “Where people are dedicated to committing frauds, no matter how diligent the SEC is, it’s not going to be able to keep up with very clever people who are intent on defrauding their fellow citizens.”
As for his future plans or any advice he would pass on to his successor, Pitt remained silent. “Former SEC chairmen should be seen and not heard,” Pitt joked to reporters after his speech.