On January 4, 2017, President-Elect Donald Trump announced that he intends to nominate Walter “Jay” Clayton for Chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). In response, Mr. Clayton stated that, “If confirmed, we are going to work together 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.”
Of the three pillars of the SEC’s mission statement – 1) protect investors; 2) maintain fair, orderly, and efficient markets; and 3) facilitate capital formation – Mr. Clayton’s deep experience as a “dealmaker” most closely aligns with the facilitation of capital formation pillar. Chair Mary Jo White’s primary prior experience as a federal prosecutor, in contrast, most closely aligned with the protection of investors. That said, while this announcement clearly indicates the incoming administration’s focus on that third pillar, with the latter part of this statement in his announcement, the President-Elect reminded the securities industry that the Chair and SEC will remain responsible for ensuring that the rules and regulations are followed, “Jay Clayton . . . will ensure our financial institutions can thrive and create jobs while playing by the rules at the same time.”
While Mr. Clayton has strong industry knowledge and experience, his lack of enforcement experience is comparable to Chair White’s lack of experience in the SEC’s regulatory and policy areas when she was appointed. Consequently, if his nomination is affirmed, Mr. Clayton’s choice for the next Director of the Division of Enforcement will reveal much about his enforcement objectives. In the meantime, one area that Mr. Clayton appears primed to de-emphasize is the SEC’s enforcement of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, based on this New York City Bar Association paper that he assisted in drafting. The President-Elect will also have more to say on the future direction of the SEC with his upcoming nominations to fill the two remaining open seats on the Commission.