The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) yesterday announced that Dr. Jeffrey H. Harris has been named Director of the agency's Division of Economic and Risk Analysis (DERA). DERA was created in September 2009 to integrate financial economics and rigorous data analytics into the core mission and operations of the SEC. As Director, Dr. Harris will lead DERA's team of experienced economists as they are involved across the entire range of SEC activities, including policy, rulemaking, enforcement, and examination.
We sat down with Dr. Harris to chat about his appointment and its impact on American University's Kogod School of Business.
Dr. Harris, congratulations on your recent appointment! Can you tell us a little bit about your primary responsibilities in this new role?
As of September 5, I will be heading the division of Economic and Risk Analysis - a division that encompasses the collection and analysis of data, a team of about 80 Ph.D. economists who run studies and cost-benefit analyses of proposed rules and an expansive support staff. The division provides guidance through research to help improve or add confidence in people using the markets.
How has your time at Kogod prepared you for this new challenge?
When searching for a Chief Economist, the SEC typically looks for someone who has a research record and who is able to provide senior guidance to the group of Ph.D. economists. They look for someone who has understanding of the empirical work performed in the division and understands the available data out there. My experience at Kogod has been along those exact lines.
As the Gary D. Cohn Goldman Sachs Chair and Department Chair in Finance at Kogod these past three years, I have had to manage people and workflows and act as the senior leader for the junior faculty, setting the tone for research, evaluating research, giving feedback on research - and altogether, helping to guide choices on what research to pursue.
About 25 years ago, one of my advisers told me that there are a lot of smart people in the world and a lot of people working hard, but successful researchers work hard on the right topics. As a chair here, I set out to build a culture of producing research that people are interested in and that is relevant, robust and able to withstand the review of our peers.
What are you most looking forward to in your new role?
The last few weeks have been a bit of a whirlwind so I have not done a lot of thinking about where I would take the role as a chief. I am aware of a number of current SEC pilot projects aimed at improving confidence in the markets. For example, I was on a panel at the SEC four years ago on the Jobs Act which raised a concern that companies are no longer going public in the US at historical rates, and that instead of trading on public markets, more companies opt to trade in private markets. This was one of the reasons we are launching a new Private Equity class at Kogod next summer.
The position of a Chief economist offers a great podium to tout the virtues of the publicly traded stocks where anyone -- you, I, our parents, aunts and uncles -- can participate in the economic gains of the country. A robust financial market that is publicly traded has significant benefits -- more so than private equity trading which, by definition, has limited access. I also hope to bring some guidance to the junior staff at the SEC. I know they have dozens of Ph.D. economists ranging from newly minted Ph.D.'s to more experienced Ph.D.'s, and I look forward to interacting with the wide variety of people and tasks.
What are the potential benefits for Kogod and our students with your new appointment?
I certainly hope that this appointment would have a positive reputational effect for Kogod. One of my biggest commitments to the school is to elevate awareness and reputation. When I travel around the country, I constantly mention that I am the Gary D. Cohn Goldman Sachs Chair in Finance at Kogod, pointing out that Gary Cohn, Goldman Sachs' former President and Chief Operating Officer from 2006 to 2017 and the current Director of the National Economic Council, came from Kogod and American University. So, if a student or faculty is looking for a place to make an impact, to have a successful career, I always point to Gary, who is clearly a very successful and engaged alumnus.
To read the SEC press release, released on August 31, visit http://bit.ly/harrissec.