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28 Geo. Wash. L. Rev. 29 (1959-1960)
Legislative History of the Securities Act of 1933

handle is hein.journals/gwlr28 and id is 31 raw text is: THE LEGISLATIVE HISTORY OF THE
SECURITIES ACT OF 1933
James M. Landis*
Landis, Feldman, Reilly and Akers, New York
Personal reminiscences are a source of both profit and danger to
the historian. Like oral testimony they can round out an arid story
of documentation. But like oral testimony they can reflect not only
an honest prejudice stemming from an incomplete view of the events
to which they relate, but also facts that never occurred, simply be-
cause barnacles of desire have during the years for one reason or
another covered the buried hulk of truth.
Naturally a sense of trepidation must therefore attach to anyone
who draws upon recollections, now more than a quarter of a century
old, to write the legislative history of the Securities Act of 1933. But
documentation of this history is scanty' and the act as such in its
interpretation and administration may benefit from a better knowl-
edge of its origins. To have had a part-and not an insignificant
*A.B., 1921, Princeton; LL.B., 1924, S.J.D., 1925, Harvard Law School. Member,
Federal Trade Commission, 1933-1934. Member, 1934-1937 and Chairman, 1935-1937,
Securities & Exchange Commission. Dean, Harvard Law School, 1937-1946. Chair-
man, Civil Aeronautics Board, 1945-1946. Member of District of Columbia and New
York Bars.
1 Some years after the passage of the Securities Act of 1933, I collected the various
drafts and memoranda in my possession relating to its legislative history. They are
by no means complete, although all the various drafts, usually containing my cor-
rections and interlineations, seem to be there. However, I can no longer identify
the source of some of the typewritten memoranda, which unfortunately were not
marked at the time. I had all this material bound, and some years later gave the
volume to the Harvard Law School Library, where it can now be found. Incomplete
though this collection may be, it is the most extensive collection of these materials of
which I am aware. It may be that a diligent search of the United States Archives
may turn up some other material.
Various popular articles written by reporters and others dealing with the passage
of the Securities Act have been published in contemporary magazines. None of
them are strictly reliable. They suffer from the tendency either to aggrandize or to
belittle some of the chief actors in this episode. Legislative drafting is rarely exciting.
It reminds one of the story attributed to Oscar Wilde, who had accepted an in-
viation to spend a week-end in the country. His hostess, knowing his penchant for
work, made a secluded study available to him. After breakfast on Saturday morning
he repaired to the study. He reappeared at lunch time. His hostess dutifully asked
him whether he had accomplished any work that morning. Getting an affirmative
reply from him, she asked: And what did you do this morning, Mr. Wilde? He
replied: I put a comma into a sentence. After luncheon he again secluded himself
in the study and reappeared for dinner. Once more his hostess asked him:
And what did you do this afternoon, Mr. Wilde? He replied: I took that comma
out of that sentence.!
[291

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