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Annual Dinner Speeches

President’s Message by Jack Katz

It has been a pleasure and an honor to serve a second year as ASECA President. ASECA is a unique organization. It is the only organization in existence composed of members linked by service to a single Federal agency. Through our annual dinner, we enjoy the opportunity to reconnect with our friends and former co-workers and to socialize with those who worked at the Commission before and after our time there. The annual dinner also provides the opportunity to honor one alum with the Douglas Award. We have awarded twenty-two persons with the award. However, each year the selection decision seems to be more difficult than ever. The list of persons who have had careers worthy of recognition grows every year. It is a testimonial to the extraordinary people who have worked at the SEC and who take pride in being SEC alums.

Our annual dinner continues to be a “must attend” event. We have sold and filled more than 70 tables for several years. In fact, the size of the dinner has made it difficult to greet and chat with all of the old friends we can see across the room. Our expanded pre-dinner reception has helped cure that problem. In fact it has been so successful that it is on the verge of surpassing the dinner in popularity. I can’t count how many people have suggested that we expand the pre-dinner reception because it offers everyone the chance to mingle with so many attendees.

My term began in 2012, the 20th anniversary of the Association. Twenty years ago, even the most optimistic organizer would not have predicted ASECA’s growth and accomplishments.

  • Our scholarship programs have provided 122 scholarships for SEC support staff to pursue their dreams and advance their careers.
  • With the addition in 2013 of Howard University Law School, we now provide scholarships at six law schools for students who are interested in a career in securities regulation.
  • In 2012, we began a scholarship program for a student in business or accounting at George Washington University in memory of Ernest Ten Eyck, our friend and colleague who served as ASECA Treasurer for many years.
  • The ASECA writing competition is now in its fourteenth year, providing financial support and national recognition each year to three law students who have written papers on securities regulation selected by a panel of academics and ASECA Board members.

In the fall of this year Tom Reisenberg will begin his term as ASECA President. I know he will do a terrific job and ASECA will continue to grow under his leadership. I only hope he has as much fun as I have had during the past two years. I hope to see everyone next year at the 23rd Annual ASECA Dinner on Friday, February 20, 2015.

All the best,

Jack

Toast to the SEC by Paul Gonson

Good evening. Fellow alumni and guests, I would like to propose a toast to the Securities and Exchange Commission.

This year, as you know, the SEC celebrates its 80th anniversary.  When I joined the SEC staff in 1961, the agency was 27 years old. Then, there were basically two generations – the oldtimers and the newcomers.

Tonight, after 80 years, we have at our dinner at least three generations – those who came of age during the Eisenhower years and are sometimes referred to as the “Silent Generation,” then the huge number of baby boomers, then “Generation X”. Members of these generations have different viewpoints and attitudes.

But there is one thing we all have in common.  As I listen to conversations at the reception this evening I am struck by how every alum appears to believe that his or her time at the SEC was the agency’s golden years. One alum asks another:  “When were you at the SEC?”

“I was there from such a date to such a date and that was the SEC’s best period.”  Or, as one alum answered my question:  “I was there from such a date to such a date, and THOSE WERE THE SEC’s GREATEST YEARS.”

Now, these answers tell us more about us alumni than about the SEC.  They tell us that the memories of our times at the SEC were enjoyable and interesting and even exciting and that we have a warm spot in our hearts for the agency.

A good part of my enjoyable memory was the privilege of working on the staff day by day with tonight’s honoree, Jake Stillman, for over thirty years.  He is a brilliant lawyer and always at the top of his game.

Please raise your glasses and join me in toasting to Jake, to the alumni, the current staff and commissioners, and most especially to the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Introduction of W. O. Douglas Award winner Jacob H. Stillman by Former Chairman Elisse Walter’s

A year ago I stood here to accept the extraordinary honor you bestow tonight on my friend Jake Stillman.  I thought being the honoree was hard—I agonized over what to say, my delivery, and, of course, what to wear!

Little did I know that this year, I would face a more difficult challenge.  Now retired (well, sort of), I was sitting at home when the phone rang.  It was Jake, requesting that I introduce him this evening.  I was and am delighted and proud:  my ex-boss, my mentor, the Commission appellate litigator et non erat (without equal, for you non-Latin scholars—or so says Google) had asked me to do the honors. 

Then I panicked.  Remember the song from The Sound of Music—How do you Solve a Problem like Maria?  That’s how I felt. I kept thinking:  What words could possibly convey his importance to the SEC, his essential Jake-ness? Jake has devoted virtually his entire professional career to serving U.S. investors and to assuring the excellence of the SEC’s appellate litigators.  He has supervised all of the Commission’s appellate work since 1978 and has been its Solicitor since 1999.  Over 50 years devoted wholeheartedly and exceptionally to public service.  All true—but it doesn’t quite capture how special Jake is.

I thought of roasting Jake.  But, in front of his lovely wife Anita? In front of his son Daniel (who called me Dewice back in the old days)?  And, family aside, Jake’s demeanor does not exactly lend itself to an easy roast.

I became obsessed.  I pleaded with ex-General Counsels and others who know Jake well—for help. I must say that I used to stand in awe of these people. But they were pretty useless.  They told me nothing that I didn’t already know.

And yet—I realized that we all focused on the same things about Jake.  We all fixated on the fact that Jakewas always in a jacket and tie. Even on weekends, he wore long sleeves to the office.  This led to great speculation. Did he have normal arms?  Was the jacket painted on?  Did he have outrageous tattoos up and down his arms?  We may never know.

We all fixated on Jake’s office—you might say it is seared into our memories. If you’ve seen it, you know why.  Apparent chaos—it is filled with many, many, very tall piles of briefs, memos, handwritten notes, Chinese takeout menus and what-not.  Sometimes, I literally could not see Jake because the piles were too high.  But the really curious thing—we all remember this—you can ask him anything and he always—and I mean always—just reaches over to a pile and pulls out whatever you want. 

I must confess that one year, when Jake went on vacation, some of us moved all of his piles and cleaned up his office.  Jake nearly collapsed when he returned.  Knowing and loving him, we were prepared—a meticulous map enabled us to return the organized chaos in a matter of minutes.

We all noted that Jake is very dogged—he will chew on an issue until he is certain that nothing has been missed.  Sometimes this leads him to seem, shall we say, bit inquisitorial. 

Jake once went to Mark Pennington’s office to discuss a thorny issue in a brief.  Mark was about to retire. They had already hashed over the issue ad nauseum and reached the same unsatisfying conclusion each time.  The conversation went something like this:

Jake: I’d like to talk about issue X.

Mark: We’ve already talked about X, and there’s only one answer.

Jake: But there must be a way around it.  

Mark: There isn’t, and I need to leave to catch my train.

Jake: But suppose a different set of facts than we have here.

Mark: We have the facts we have.  I am putting on my coat.

Jake: I wonder if the result would be different under common law.

Mark: Federal law controls. I am putting on my hat.

Jake: Have we run this by Enforcement?

Mark: I am leaving now.  [He exits the office]

Jake: Let’s run through the analysis one more time.

I will leave you with some serious thoughts that I, and the colleagues that I looked to for help, all agree on. 

Jake Stillman has done more to develop the vast body of securities law precedents than anyone.  He serves the Commission with devotion, intellectual honesty, brilliance and purity of vision.  He pursues each case in the way that most effectively advances the Commission’s mission and protects investors.  He knows which arguments are persuasive and which are not.  He knows which issues to pursue and when to pursue them.  The breadth and depth of his knowledge are unparalleled, and he is unfailingly generous in sharing his time and knowledge with colleagues.  

And, Jake is a lovely, lovely man.  He doesn’t have a mean bone in his body.  He has taught and mentored dozens—perhaps hundreds—of young lawyers, nurturing them so that they become accomplished advocates.  Novice brief writers sometimes feared facing Jake’s many questions. But they quickly learned that his questions were never harsh; they were relevant, they reflected his mastery of the issues and they always helped you grow as a lawyer.

Ladies and gentlemen, the man of the hour—my friend, my boss, my colleague and my mentor, Jake Stillman.