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SEC CREATING UNIT DESIGNED TO PROTECT THE SMALL INVESTORS

SHARE SEC CREATING UNIT DESIGNED TO PROTECT THE SMALL INVESTORS

The Securities and Exchange Commission, catapulted into the headlines by its pursuit of multimillion-dollar insider trading scandals, is putting out the word that it intends to be just as aggressive in protecting small investors.

SEC Chairman Richard Breeden is creating a fraud unit at the SEC designed to police the sale of securities by savings and loan institutions.Investigators have charged that some small investors lost their life savings when they bought securities sold by S&L branches in the mistaken belief that their investments were protected by federal deposit insurance.

"We intend to see to it that when people are sold securities, they are provided all the necessary information," Breeden said.

Breeden also announced Tuesday that he had selected William R. McLucas, a 12-year SEC veteran, to be the new director of enforcement at the SEC. He will succeed Gary Lynch, who resigned in July after supervising such landmark insider trading cases as the investigation of Ivan Boesky and the Wall Street firm of Drexel Burnham Lambert Inc.

Both Breeden and McLucas stressed that insider trading still would be a top SEC priority, but they also indicated that the SEC, with a 20 percent increase in its budget, would devote more resources to more low-profile crooks.

"Where there is an abuse of a customer's trust, those are the kinds of cases where we are going to make sure we have an impact," McLucas said at a news conference where his selection was announced.

Individual investors have been leaving the market in droves in recent years, scared off in part by extreme trading volatility. Many officials believe the SEC must return to its primary mission of bolstering confidence in financial markets through protection of the small investor.