Competition between rivals can be a good thing -- at least, that's what Securities and Exchange Commission Chairman Arthur Levitt hopes.
The Blue Ribbon Committee on Improving the Effectiveness of Corporate Audit Committees, which was formed at the urging of Mr. Levitt, has released its report listing 10 recommendations to improve the quality of audit committees and corporate financial reporting.
At the press conference when the report was released, Richard Grasso, chairman of the New York Stock Exchange, and Frank Zarb, chairman and chief executive officer of the National Association of Securities Dealers -- which have a not-so-friendly rivalry going on attempting to attract companies to their exchanges -- were asked how long it would take to come up with new audit committee standards for their listed companies.
Mr. Grasso said that he would have to "go to my 3,000 listed companies" with the report, get their reactions and then debate the issues before the NYSE would be able to come up with a new listing standard for audit committees.
Mr. Zarb then said that he would have to "go to my 6,000 listed companies," and do much the same thing.
At which point Mr. Grasso joked, "We'd be happy to take some of those companies off your hands."
Then Mr. Levitt, pointing out how quickly the Blue Ribbon committee had accomplished its work -- the report was ready 90 days after the committee first met -- said he hoped "the competition between the NYSE and Nasdaq will work in this case to get them to act quickly."
He optimistically added he hoped they would finish their work in several months.