NEW YORK — President-elect Donald Trump announced on Wednesday that he will nominate Wall Street lawyer, Jay Clayton, to head the Securities and Exchange Commission.
As chair of the SEC, which polices Wall Street and the financial markets, Clayton would play a key role in Trump’s efforts to usher in a period of deregulation, including undoing parts of 2010’s financial reform legislation, known as the Dodd-Frank Act.
“Jay Clayton is a highly talented expert on many aspects of financial and regulatory law, and he will ensure our financial institutions can thrive and create jobs while playing by the rules at the same time,” Trump said in a statement.
If confirmed by the Senate, Clayton would replace Mary Jo White, who announced shortly after the election that she would step down.
White, a former federal prosecutor, is known for a no-nonsense style and beefed up the agency’s enforcement efforts over the last three years, pushing for more companies to admit guilt and taking more cases to trial. And during her term, the SEC has been a central player part of the Obama administration’s effort to rein in big banks following the 2008 financial crisis and prevent future taxpayer bailouts of the industry. The agency has pushed for more oversight of hedge funds and other asset managers and has established rules that make it more difficult for big banks to make risky bets on the markets.
But Trump is widely expected to roll back some of the banking industry regulations the Obama administration put in place.
“We need to undo many regulations which have stifled investment in American businesses, and restore oversight of the financial industry in a way that does not harm American workers,” Trump said.
Clayton, in a statement, said that he would work “with key stakeholders in the financial system to make sure we provide investors and our companies with the confidence to invest together in America. We will carefully monitor our financial sector, as we set policy that encourages American companies to do what they do best: create jobs.”
Clayton is a partner at Sullivan & Cromwell, a well-known law firm, and has represented some of the biggest names on Wall Street, including Goldman Sachs and Barclays, and helped them weather regulatory scrutiny. He has also helped large companies raise money through an initial public offering, including Alibaba, the Chinese retail giant. But, according to the biography on the Sullivan & Cromwell website, Clayton has not held any government positions and has never served as a prosecutor.
“Mr. Clayton’s background is as a Wall Street defense lawyer — and while that’s hardly unprecedented in these kind of nominations, we believe it’s not the appropriate background for a top position policing Wall Street,” said Marcus Stanley, policy director for Americans for Financial Reform. “We look forward to tough questioning from the Senate regarding his positions on specific issues”
His nomination drew a quick Twitter response from Hillary Clinton’s former campaign deputy press secretary.
I’m sure Trump campaigned on appointing a Wall Street attorney who represented Goldman Sachs to oversee Wall Street at SEC, right? https://t.co/0Gki9nxqg5
— Jesse Ferguson (@JesseFFerguson) January 4, 2017
In addition to replacing White, Trump will be able to fill two openings on the five-member SEC commission. Also, Thomas Curry, the head of the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, another important Wall Street regulator, has less than six months on his term and Timothy Massad, chairman of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, announced earlier this week that he would step down. Together, the openings should give the Trump administration wide latitude to change the way Wall Street is regulated.