WASHINGTON – Jay Clayton, the Wall Street lawyer President Trump nominated to become chair of the Securities and Exchange Commission, was confirmed by a 61-37 vote of the Senate on Tuesday.
Clayton must be sworn in for a term that will end on June 5, 2021. He does not appear to have direct experience with municipal securities but personal investment disclosures show he has holdings in muni funds and money market funds. He will join a short-handed SEC that has only been operating with two commissioners, Michael Piwowar, a Republican, and Kara Stein, a Democrat. Trump has not nominated individuals to fill the final two commissioner seats.
Clayton’s nomination faced some challenges during the confirmation process as Democrats saw his past representation of large investment banking firms like Goldman Sachs as a red flag that would likely force him to recuse himself in what could be many key enforcement cases.
Clayton assured the Senate Banking Committee during his confirmation hearing that he would not play favorites and maintained that he will be “100% committed to rooting out any fraud and shady practices” in the financial markets. He also said he intends to focus on individual accountability in enforcement actions, a continuation of a trend that former SEC chair Mary Jo White promoted.
He will be entering a political environment very focused on deregulation under the Trump administration but has avoided making any direct comments about how he might fit into the president's and Republican lawmakers’ goals.
Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association president and chief executive officer Ken Bentsen congratulated Clayton on his confirmation and said in a release that SIFMA looks forward “to working with him on issues of importance to investors that enhance our capital markets, help stimulate economic growth and create jobs."
Robert Cook, the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority’s president and chief executive officer, said he looks forward to working with Clayton.
“Jay's broad experience and his keen understanding of capital markets and securities regulation will serve all market participants well as the SEC works to ensure that safe, strong securities markets remain a cornerstone of the U.S. economy,” Cook said.