Irving Pollack, who served as the first director of enforcement at the Securities and Exchange Commission — the branch that has often defined the agency to the public eye — has passed away. He was 98.
Pollack died in his home in Rockville, Maryland on July 1.
According to a statement by SEC Chair Mary Jo White, he worked at several positions within the agency over 34 years including the general counsel’s office, as a commissioner and, in 1972, as the first chair of enforcement in 1972.
“Irv was one of the Great Old Men of the SEC,” John Coffee told Big Law Business via email, adding that he and his successor Stanley Sporkin “set the tone for SEC enforcement for the next twenty years. I wish it still had that tone of ‘we will come after you, whatever the cost.’”
The SEC did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
In 1946, Pollack passed an oral exam and joined the SEC, still located in Philadelphia, which was involved in the forced divestitures of utility companies, according to Bloomberg . In 1948, the SEC relocated to Washington, D.C. and Pollack moved too.
“One interesting thing in that is that I came from a non-highly respected law school, Brooklyn Law School, and the general counsel’s office, in which I was offered the position, had mostly people from the elite law schools in the country,” Pollack explained in a 2002 interview .
“The reason they were interested in me is that I had been asked whether I would be willing to work on criminal matters and I said I would. Apparently the others in the office, who came from the other schools, felt that criminal cases were not really the kinds of things they wanted to work on.”
At the time, he said the SEC brought hundreds of criminal and civil cases each year; only the criminal cases were managed from a central authority at the headquarters to prevent the statutes from being mis-applied, he said in the interview. At the time, each region acted independently, and were not coordinating their actions, Pollack said.
White said in a statement that Pollack’s service in various departments throughout the SEC meant that he was adept at facilitating cooperation.
In a 2003 interview , Stanley Sporkin, who worked under Pollack and eventually was his successor as director of enforcement, said they knew the agency was short on resources, so they decided to go after gatekeepers — lawyers, accountants, and other key figures who are in a better position to stop and prevent fraud.
“We developed the so-called access strategy, which to my delight has become one of the underpinnings of Sarbanes-Oxley,” said Sporkin. “Of course, they now call it the gatekeeper strategy.”
The SEC still presents the Irving M. Pollack award on an annual basis to an enforcement staff member “who demonstrates fairness and compassion as well as a dedication to public service and the SEC.”