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December 1, 2002

Is Mr. Pitt Coming?

By John A. Byrne

Is Harvey Pitt coming? That was the favorite question among the media assembled at this year's annual SIA meeting in Boca Raton, Fla. Harvey did arrive to speak as prearranged, of course, but it surprised many who thought he would remain holed up in Washington. Earlier, he announced his decision to resign under growing pressure because of a series of gaffes.

What was also surprising was the posse of SEC officials who accompanied the embattled Pitt on the trip, which had started on the previous evening. That's when Pitt's press spokeswoman flew into Boca. She showed up on that evening, puffing nervously on a cigarette at a private dinner for the media.

On His Way

"He's [Harvey] 30 minutes behind me on the plane and is on his way," she told Traders Magazine before heading off to her room to watch television. "I must catch up on the elections."

The next morning Pitt was spotted by an eagle-eyed television reporter from CNBC. "I saw him in the hotel corridor," she gushed for the television cameras before making her stunning confession. Pitt, she said, "refused to take my questions."

When Pitt finally came to the podium, an entourage of about six SEC heavyweights, including chief of staff Mark Radke and Annette Nazareth, the SEC's Director of the Division of Market Regulation, took their places in front row seats.

"Unfortunately, turmoil surrounding my chairmanship makes it very difficult for the commissioners and the staff to perform critical assignments," Pitt told the audience, on the verge of tears. "I hope my successor isn't greeted with the same climate of attack and partisanship."

The assembled SEC heavyweights sat stone-faced but attentive. "They're making sure Harvey doesn't put his foot in it again," whispered a veteran political reporter, a journalist who has covered more political dogfights than there are SEC rules.