The Securities and Exchange Commission said it intended to undertake the establishment of a forensics lab relying on state of the art information technology, to help it oversee the operations of the nation's financial markets.

Chairman Mary L. Schapiro described the lab as one of the securities regulator's "major new projects,'' in testimony Wenesday before the  Subcommittee on Financial Services and General Government of the Committee on Appropriations in the U.S. House of Representatives.

The lab will be accompanied by enhanced data and trading analytics, as well as "improved document and knowledge management," she said, without providing details on the contents of the lab or the form of the analytics.

"A key priority for me as Chairman is to ensure that our staff has the tools they need to conduct oversight of vast financial markets,'' she said. "Between FY 2005 and FY 2009, investments in new information technology systems dropped by more than half, resulting in a growing gap between our mission and the ability of our systems to help us accomplish it."

She said financial resources provided by House subcommittee are helping it invest in "several new or improved IT projects and systems."

She noted that one of the first initiatives she launched as chairman was a strategic review of the agency's systems for reviewing complaints, tips and investigative leads provided by whistleblowers or other sources. This was chronicled in the March 8 edition of Securities Industry News.

"Having an effective process to identify the most important tips can give the agency an early jump on frauds and other violations of securities laws, help guide compliance exams and provide important information across the agency to aid staff working to protect investors and maintain market integrity,'' she said.

The financial crisis "reminded us just how large, complex and critical to our economy the securities markets have become,'' she said.

The average daily trading volume in stocks, exchange-traded options and security futures in dollar terms has grown by over 25 times, reaching approximately $245 billion a day, she said.

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