Donald Nicolaisen, the chief accountant at the Securities and Exchange Commission, will leave the regulator at the end of October to pursue an opportunity in the private sector.

Nicolaisen's departure, which is the latest in a string of high-level exits from the SEC, will leave newly minted Chairman Christopher Cox with another key position to fill. Former SEC Chairman William Donaldson appointed Nicolaisen in August 2003. He was formerly a senior partner at the accounting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers.

Like his peers at the SEC, Nicolaisen's tenure spanned a remarkably busy period of enforcement and rulemaking at the regulator. In addition to working closely with the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board to implement sections of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, Nicolaisen helped establish and revamp other accounting standards; played a key role in implementing the SEC's efforts to embrace new technology, such as eXtensible Business Reporting Language (XBRL) pilot program; and led numerous other initiatives to strengthen the auditing process and rebuild investor confidence in the wake of the mutual fund scandal, SEC officials said.

But Nicolaisen's departure offers Cox the opportunity to handpick an individual who shares his regulatory vision.

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