February 1, 2016

The Death of the SEC’s Public Reference Room Has Been Greatly Exaggerated

Recently, a member claimed that he heard that the SEC’s Public Reference Room was closed. I was surprised to hear that – so I paid a visit to find out that it indeed still exists. It does – albeit it’s now subsumed into the SEC’s library, with daily hours reduced to 10 am – 3 pm.

Of course, the importance of the Public Reference Room has greatly diminished over time. Before Edgar came online, that was the place to go to obtain SEC filings. There were times when there was a huge line to merely gain access to it – and it was often bedlam as described in this NY Times article from 1982. And here’s a GAO report from 1989 about how to improve its operations – remember microfiche! Here’s a pic of the room from 1937. And even when Edgar first started, there were many SEC-related documents that could be found only there.

But at this point, it’s more of a historic relic as information is readily available online, for free or a fee. In fact, the Public Reference Room now consists of what essentially is a one-person office with a solitary filing cabinet in it, filled with Form 144s. And if the SEC eventually requires the electronic filing of those forms (which Jesse Brill has urged for quite some time in The Corporate Counsel and more recently in this rulemaking petition), I imagine the Public Reference Room will truly be history. Please send your memories of the place – I won’t share without your permission.


How’s the SEC’s Library Looking?

I did visit the SEC’s library, which always has been one of my favorite spots. How many of the old-timers out there remember the library being jammed with both Staffers and visitors? And more than one Staffer perhaps getting a little shut eye? A nice quiet place for a nap. Send me your fond memories (and I won’t attribute unless you want it).

Getting in there is not as simple as the old days, when you could just walk in off the street. You still can walk in off the street – but you first must go through security and then wait in the Visitor’s Office until a librarian comes to fetch you. But it’s worth the trip! Of course, the library’s staff spends most of its time managing the numerous electronic resources available to the entire SEC – so the book collection is not visited often. It’s more of a museum. But for securities law nerds, it’s full of classic resources.

Here’s a set of SEC releases from the 1930s:

sec 33 rel.jpg

Here’s an index of the NY Times from the 1930s:

sec ny.jpg

And here is one of the last SEC Phone Books:

sec pb.jpg

SEC Snubs NYSE & Nasdaq

Here’s an excerpt from this WSJ article:

An exclusive group of heavyweights is chosen to deliberate over an obscure, yet crucial, policy matter. Two players who didn’t make the membership cut take offense, and spurn an invitation to join the discussion. It’s the stuff of classic Washington power politics intrigue. In this case, the tussle over the shape of an advisory panel has set up a behind-the-scenes tiff between the country’s top markets regulator – the Securities and Exchange Commission — on the one side, and two of the country’s biggest exchanges — the New York Stock Exchange, and Nasdaq – on the other.

The two exchanges are so upset the SEC didn’t offer either of them a seat on the agency’s Equity Market Structure Advisory Committee that they have spurned offers by the panel to participate in policy deliberations held by its members behind closed doors, according to people familiar with the matter.

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– Broc Romanek