Milton H. Cohen, a securities lawyer whose insights into the stock market became the basis for innumerable regulatory proposals over the last 40 years, died Oct. 30 at his home in Haverford, Pa. He was 93.
His death was announced by Schiff Hardin, the law firm where Mr. Cohen was a partner before he retired in 1988.
Mr. Cohen led the 19-month “Special Study of Securities Markets,” which the Securities and Exchange Commission conducted in 1961 after a spate of stock scandals. Delivered to Congress in 1963, the 3,000-page study laid the groundwork for, among other things, the elimination of fixed stock brokerage commissions, an amendment expanding the required disclosures by companies and the technological innovations that would lead to the Nasdaq stock market.
“It still has validity today,” said Stanley Sporkin, a former director of enforcement for the S.E.C. and a retired federal judge. “When you’re studying any one of a number of issues, the seminal piece that you look to is the Special Study.”
An article Mr. Cohen wrote in 1966 for the Harvard Law Review, “Truth in Securities Revisited,” was the impetus for several changes in the commission’s disclosure requirements and became the basis for future efforts. Only last week, in a 400-page document proposing revisions to some of its rules on stock offerings, the commission traced its ideas to Mr. Cohen’s article.
In a statement after his death, , the commission described Mr. Cohen as “one of the seminal figures of the S.E.C.” and called his study “the foundation for the creation of today’s integrated national market system.” It added: “His ideas will continue to guide the work of this commission.”
Milton Howard Cohen was born on Aug. 9, 1911, in Milwaukee, where his father was a lawyer. He graduated magna cum laude from Harvard in 1932 and graduated with honors from Harvard Law School in 1935.
He then became a junior attorney at the commission, barely a year after it was created. By 1943, he was director of the commission’s largest division, corporate regulation, and was in charge of its reorganization of the public utility industry, a broad antitrust measure ordered by Congress in 1935 after shares in electrical utility companies collapsed like the high-flying tech stocks of the 1990’s.
“People forget about it, but it really was epochal,” said Jonathan Katz, secretary of the commission. “Imagine today if Congress gave a government agency the authority to study the entire high-tech industry and the responsibility to reorganize it.”
Mr. Cohen left the commission in 1946 to return to the Midwest, where he joined Schiff Harden and provided counsel not only to the underwriters and issuers of securities but also to the Chicago White Sox.
In the 1970’s, he led the legal team that created the Chicago Board Options Exchange, the world’s first options market, and became the exchange’s principal outside counsel. He was also principal outside counsel of the Chicago Stock Exchange.