SEC May Unveil Small Biz Advocate Office This Year: Piwowar

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By Andrew Ramonas

An SEC small-business advocate office could debut by the end of the year, Commissioner Michael Piwowar said in Washington July 17.

The Securities and Exchange Commission recently received approval to fund the unit, which Congress authorized late last year, Piwowar said during a discussion at conservative think tank Heritage Foundation. The next step is hiring a head for the Office of the Advocate for Small Business Capital Formation and adding other staff to the new unit, he said.

The unit was based on the commission’s Office of the Investor Advocate, which came out of the Dodd-Frank Act. The small-business advocate will be charged with spotting challenges companies face accessing capital and will recommend regulatory fixes, among other duties.

“My hope is that we can start that process, move that forward through the summer and fall, and have something announced hopefully by the end of the year,” Piwowar said.

Listening Tour

SEC Chairman Jay Clayton has said he is looking at ways to make public markets more attractive, boosting initial public offerings. In June, the agency announced it will allow all companies to file draft registration documents for IPOs confidentially in an effort to encourage more of them to go public.

Piwowar said he’s visited Cincinnati, New York, and Silicon Valley in the past few weeks to listen to companies about what’s impeding capital formation.

His meetings included a conversation with officials of a Silicon Valley private company with a valuation of more than $1 billion, Piwowar said. The company had 12 in-house chefs and only two inside lawyers, the commissioner said. Such a company would have an “army of people” in the legal and investor relations departments if it was public, he said.

Piwowar said that on his travels, he heard many complaints about “how burdensome” compliance is and about the “costs that go into providing information for stuff that is of little or no value to investors.”

He didn’t offer any specific rulemaking he hoped the SEC would take up after his listening tour, but asked the public for ideas.

“You tell us what we can do,” Piwowar said. “We can sit around the building here in Washington, D.C., and try to dream up what we think are important things to do. But what’s most important for us is to get out there and hear from people.”

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