President Obama has nominated two veteran Senate aides, one a former Securities and Exchange Commission economist, to become the next new SEC commissioners, the White House announced late Thursday.
Obama tapped Democrat Kara Stein, a top aide to Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I., to replace Elisse Walter, and Michael Piwowar, the Republican chief economist to the Senate Banking Committee, to replace commissioner Troy Paredes.
Walter has been a strong advocate of more SEC focus on the municipal market, and spearheaded the commission’s muni market report last year, which made a dozen recommendations to improve disclosure, price transparency and the structure of the muni market. She was acting SEC chairman, replacing Mary Schapiro late last year, before White took the post.
Walter’s term originally expired June 5 last year, but commissioners can stay on an additional 18 months if they have not yet been replaced, an SEC spokesman said. Paredes’ term expires June 5.
No more than three of the SEC commissioners may belong to the same political party. Stein and Piwowar would need to be confirmed by the Senate before they could assume their posts.
Stein’s term would expire June 5, 2017, and Piwowar’s on the same day in 2018.
Stein has served in various roles on Capitol Hill for more than 15 years, including as a legislative assistant to former Sen. Chris Dodd, D-Conn., a onetime banking committee chair and sponsor of the Dodd-Frank Act. Prior to coming to the Hill, Stein was an associate with Wilmer, Cutler & Pickering from 1996 to 1997 and an assistant professor with the University of Dayton School of Law from 1995 to 1996. Current banking committee chair Tim Johnson, D-S.D., praised her qualifications.
“Kara Stein is a smart, dedicated public servant who has done superb work for Sen. Reed on issues before the committee for over a decade,” said Johnson. “I look forward to supporting Kara’s nomination, and I am confident she will make an outstanding commissioner.”
Piwowar served as chief economist to the president’s Council of Economic Advisers from 2008 to 2009, and was also an economist at the SEC from 2002 to 2006. Sen. Mike Crapo of Idaho, the banking committee’s ranking Republican, said Piwowar’s knowledge and experience would make him an asset to the SEC.
“Mike’s in-depth expertise of capital markets and background as a chief economist make him exceptionally well-qualified for this position as the SEC moves forward on critical issues,” Crapo said. “I am confident that as an SEC commissioner, he will work to fulfill the agency’s critical mission of protecting investors, maintaining fair, orderly, and efficient markets and facilitating capital formation.”
Johnson said he is eager to move the nominations forward, as well as confirming SEC chair Mary Jo White for a term expiring in 2019. She was previously confirmed for a term that expires next year.
“I look forward to moving both their nominations forward, as well as chairman White’s full five-year term, to ensure the Commission continues to operate at full strength,” Johnson said.
If they are confirmed, the pair would join commissioners Luis Aguilar and Daniel Gallagher under the leadership of White.
The new batch of commissioners will likely be responsible for approving the rule defining municipal advisors, which muni office chief John Cross has said will likely be out later this year.
Industry groups as well as lawmakers praised the nominations, and the outgoing commissioners.
“While congratulating the two nominated commissioners, Bond Dealers of America wants to recognize outgoing commissioners Walter and Paredes who both provided a tremendous service and were always willing to meet with BDA members regarding issues of concern to America’s middle market and regional fixed income dealers,” said Michael Nicholas, BDA’s president and chief executive officer. “The BDA certainly looks forward to working with each of the SEC commissioners and SEC Chair White on the most pressing issues impacting investors and the securities industry generally. Both Michael Piwowar and Kara Stein are smart, very capable and experienced and I’m sure will provide strong guidance and direction to the SEC, at a crucial time for the agency.”