William Webster would reportedly give up chairmanship of the new national accounting oversight board if the controversy over his election two weeks ago hinders its ability to function.
Webster, the 78-year-old former FBI and CIA chief elected on a partisan vote, refused to estimate when such a determination might be made, the
Web site reported.
"I'd like to wait and see what's going to happen over the next few days," Webster said. "My main concern is that the new board is able to begin its work. I have to make a judgment whether my presence will help or hinder that objective."
Webster told the paper he knew of no fraudulent conduct at
, a financially troubled company on whose audit committee he served, and said he would wait before making any decision.
"I haven't wanted to cut and run just to protect myself," he said, adding that the board's ability to function was paramount. "Beyond a certain point I'm not going to hold on to a job I didn't seek."
Webster's appointment has stirred up the controversy surrounding Harvey Pitt, the
chairman who had already been criticized for his handling of the recent crisis in the accounting profession. Pitt and the agency's chief accountant, Robert Herdman, reportedly face four separate probes into how they handled a background check of Webster and information that he had been involved with the company now facing fraud allegations.
The SEC itself has ordered two probes, one by its inspector general and one by its general counsel. Congress has also sought a probe by its General Accounting Office, while Senate Banking Committee Chairman Paul Sarbanes plans a hearing when Congress returns in November.
While some say Pitt is
unlikely to resign, one casualty could be Herdman. Investigators reportedly have been asked to find out if Herdman carried out an intensive-enough investigation of Webster and whether information was conveyed to Pitt.
The Wall Street Journal
reported Monday that if the probe is found to have come up short, some commissioners might press for his resignation.