Landis, James M.

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SEC Chairman Landis 1936 TLS to Federal Trade Commission Member Davis thanking him for article on gains by utility companies



Type: Letter
Description: (1899-1964) Academic, government official and legal advisor, 2nd Chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) 1935-37.

Harvard Law 1924, he was a student of Felix Frankfurter and in 1925 clerked for Justice Brandeis at the Supreme Court. He was a Harvard Law professor until called into government service during the New Deal. Frankfurter arranged for him to come to Washington in the spring of 1933 to help draft the Securities Act. With Benjamin Cohen and Thomas G. Corcoran, he drafted the Securities Act of 1933.

He was a member of the Federal Trade Commission 1933-34, member of the SEC 1934-37, its Chairman 1935-37 (preceded by Joseph P. Kennedy, succeeded by William O. Douglas). While 5th Harvard Law dean 1937-46, Landis was regional director of the Office of Civilian Defense 1941–42, its national director 1942–43. President Roosevelt sent Landis to Egypt as Director of Economic Operations in the Middle East 1943–45. In 1946, President Truman appointed him chairman of the Civil Aeronautics Board, a position he held until 1947.

A longtime friend of the Kennedy family, he served as a legal advisor to Joseph P. Kennedy and as Special Counsel to President Kennedy. In 1960 he drafted the Landis Report to President-elect Kennedy, reexamining federal regulatory commissions and recommending such reforms as strengthening commission chairmen and streamlining procedures. Among President Kennedy’s first appointments was Dean Landis as a special assistant in charge of regulatory reform. Landis failed to pay his 1956-60 income taxes and after this came to light in 1963, he pleaded guilty, sentenced to a month in jail. Because of illness, he spent the month in hospital facilities. Less than a year after he returned home, he had a heart attack and drowned in his swimming pool.

He wrote “The Administrative Process” (1938), and, with Felix Frankfurter, wrote “The Business of the Supreme Court” (1928).

TLS on 10 x 8  letterhead as Chairman of the SEC, Washington, February 28 1936, to Hon. Ewin Davis, Federal Trade Commission. Landis thanks Judge Davis for his letter and a copy of a newspaper article showing gains by utility concerns. Landis replies: “It certainly has been interesting to note the recent gains by these companies in spite of the dire predictions by many leaders of the industry.”

Ewin L. Davis (1876-1949) Tennessee US Rep (D) 1919-33, member of the Federal Trade Commission 1933 until his death, its Chairman in 1935, 1940, and 1945.

Congress passed the Public Utilities Holding Company Act of 1935, but leading utilities planned to take their case to the courts before registering with the SEC. The American Public Service Company petitioned the courts in Baltimore to review the Holding Company Act’s constitutionality, in which all of the parties in the case represented the utilities and the SEC could participate only as a “friend of the court.” Landis made a test case out of Electric Bond and Share Company, the world’s largest electric utility holding company. On November 26, 1935, the SEC brought suit in the US District Court for the Southern District of New York against the Electric Bond and Share Company and 14 other holding companies. All other lawsuits against the SEC were dismissed except for one which was decided in favor of the SEC –  Public Utility Investing Corporation. v. Utilities Power and Light Corporation, where the 4th Circuit US Court of Appeals found the act of registering did not do any irreparable damage to the company. On March 28, 1938, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the SEC and the Public Utilities Act of 1935, giving it full authority to enforce the Act.

Condition: Very good, mail folds, faint clip impression top left, very trivial blur to ink in signature

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