NASAA President Widmann's Remarks on Hurricane Katrina

Opening Statement

Frank Widmann
New Jersey Securities Bureau Chief
President, North American Securities Administrators Association

September 11, 2005
NASAA 88th Annual Conference
Minneapolis, Minnesota

Good afternoon. I am Frank Widmann, NASAA President. I would like to welcome all of you to NASAA’s 88th Annual Conference here in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

I also would like to say a few words as a reminder of why we are here and why we do what we do. In the wake of the recent tragedy created by Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath, our hearts go out to the people of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida, who suffered or were dislocated by the storm. Our thanks go to those who took so many in.

As securities regulators it is our mission to protect people. That is based upon the fundamental responsibility of government to protect the public health, safety and welfare.

While our participation does not often involve life or death, it can involve devastation of people’s lives through losses of their homes, and hard-earned life savings. I am reminded of those losses, and much worse, when I see the devastation wrought by this storm and the need for government assistance.

I am pleased by the response of our securities regulator colleagues in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Florida, Texas, and others and the cooperative spirit displayed in attempting to assist displaced investors and financial firms and their employees. I am pleased and thankful for the offers of cooperation and assistance from the NASD and the SEC. I am pleased with the NASAA family, including members and the Corporate Office, who have spent their time and energy to help their aggrieved colleagues with a goal toward protecting investors and stabilizing the system in the aftermath of the storm. I am especially heartened by the generosity of the American people and those of other countries.

However, the real message of this catastrophe is this – Americans expect their government, at all levels, to protect them, particularly when they are vulnerable. Americans expect their government to be there to provide an essential safety net – particularly in times of crisis, and even if it costs big dollars – because the fundamental role of government is to protect the public health, safety and welfare. That is our trust as state and provincial securities regulators, and that is why we approach our jobs as our mission and our cause.

However, remember that this isn’t just about government. There is another piece to this equation. One of the assumptions that we live by in a civil society such as ours is that people will have access to their money, that it will be safe when entrusted to our financial institutions, and that it won’t be stolen, leaving the victim with no recourse. So, in addition to the governmental responsibility of protecting the public and enforcing the law, there is a civic responsibility for those who are entrusted with the property and money of others – to treat their fellow citizens fairly and with respect. And this is why you in the industry are so important. The industry’s response in a time of crisis, in a cooperative effort with government, will instill confidence in our system and be another positive milestone toward the future of our society.

We have just seen how fragile our own system can be if the social fabric is torn apart. So, I would urge all of you who are government regulators to keep pushing to protect those who need our help, and those of you who are in the industry to rise to the occasion in this time of crisis for our citizens, your customers and our American way of life.

That is what being an American is all about. Thank you.

September 11, 2005

Newsroom, Speeches