Irving Pollack, First SEC Enforcement Director, Dies

  • Lauded for his integrity and passion for securities law
  • Helped create centralized enforcement from earlier ‘fiefdoms’

Irving Pollack, who established the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission’s enforcement division as its founding director in 1972, has died. He was 98.

He died on July 1 at his home in Rockville, Maryland, according to his daughter, Janet Swartz. She declined to give a cause.

Pollack was “a distinguished public servant” and “a man of incredible integrity who was truly passionate about securities law,” SEC Chairman Mary Jo White said in a statement. “Irving recognized the immense responsibility of the Enforcement Division to ensure honest business practices and pursued that goal vigorously.”

Before becoming an SEC commissioner himself, Pollack was a staff member for almost three decades, working in the general counsel’s office and becoming head of the trading and markets division.

Under his leadership, starting in 1963, the unit began handling certain enforcement cases -- ones that crossed regional lines, for instance, or stemmed from commission initiatives. Until then, cracking down on those who violated SEC policies had been the responsibility of the agency’s regional field offices.

Battling Fiefdoms

An overhaul of the SEC under Chairman William Casey in 1972 created the new Division of Enforcement at the agency’s Washington headquarters. Pollack served as its director for two years, until his 1974 appointment by President Richard Nixon to a seat on the five-member commission. He served until 1980.

In a 2002 interview with the SEC Historical Society, Pollack recalled that an early obstacle to centralized enforcement was the “fiefdom” mentality of some regional offices. “In practice there was no control” by the home office, he said. “They were really independent operators.”

A series of SEC actions, challenged in court, helped establish the enforcement division.

A “seminal” case, he said, involved insider trading at Texas Gulf Sulphur Co. In 1968, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit agreed with the SEC that executives of the company had broken the law by acquiring stock and options while aware of a mineral discovery that hadn’t yet been shared with directors.

‘A Legend’

When Nixon named Pollack to a seat on the commission, Pollack’s protege, Stanley Sporkin, succeeded him as head of enforcement and became known as a relentless pursuer of corporate misbehavior. As a commissioner, Pollack spoke up regularly in defense of Sporkin, and of a vigorous enforcement division.

In a 2003 interview for the SEC Historical Society, Sporkin hailed Pollack as “a legend.”

Irving Meyer Pollack was born on April 8, 1918, in the New York City borough of Brooklyn, one of four children of Samuel Pollack, a tailor, and the former Rebecca Minsky.

Fighting Fraud

He graduated Brooklyn College in 1938 and Brooklyn Law School in 1942. He served in the U.S. military from 1943 to 1946 and was discharged as a captain in the Air Force.

He went to work at the SEC in 1946, joining his older brother, Harry. The agency, then located in Philadelphia, was deeply involved at the time with the forced divestitures of utility companies, in line with President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Public Utility Holding Company Act of 1935.

Another area of emphasis was reviewing company registration statements “to protect the process from being corrupted by con men and other people who were trying to use it to accomplish frauds,” Pollack recalled.

After leaving the SEC in 1980, Pollack formed a law firm, Storch & Brenner, with Laurence Storch, a specialist in securities enforcement and regulatory matters. In 2005, they joined the Washington office of law firm Fulbright & Jaworski. Most recently they practiced law as Pollack & Storch.

His wife of 66 years, the former Shirley Margoshes, died in 2014. Survivors include another daughter, Joan Liggett, and one granddaughter.

(Corrects reference to Laurence Storch having worked at SEC in 16th paragraph.)
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