PHOENIX – Robert Jackson, the New York lawyer Donald Trump intends to nominate as a new member of the Securities and Exchange Commission, has little track record in the municipal market despite a wealth of corporate finance and U.S. government experience.
The White House announced on Sept. 2 that President Trump wants Jackson to fill the Democratic vacancy on the commission for the remainder of a term expiring June 5, 2019.
Jackson had been rumored for the appointment for months, but was not nominated when Trump put forward George Mason University researcher Hester Peirce to fill the Republican SEC vacancy.
The SEC may have no more than three members of one party, and presidents have usually nominated Republican and Democrat candidates at the same time to ensure that the commission remains ideologically balanced.
Jackson is a professor at Columbia Law School and director of its program on corporate law and policy. His academic work focuses on corporate governance and the use of advanced data science techniques to improve transparency in securities markets.
He previously served as an adviser to senior officials at the Department of the Treasury and in the Office of the Special Master for TARP Executive Compensation. Before that, he practiced in the executive compensation department of Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen and Katz, according to his law school bio. He also has testified before the Senate on his work related to federal agency rulemaking.
Jackson holds two bachelor's degrees from the University of Pennsylvania, an M.B.A. in finance from that school’s Wharton School of Business and a master’s degree from Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, as well as a law degree from Harvard Law School.
But muni market sources professed no familiarity with Jackson, who as a commissioner would be tasked with voting on proposed muni rules as well as on enforcement actions recommended by the SEC’s Enforcement Division. Ultimately the commission’s agenda is generally set by its chair, Jay Clayton, who Trump also nominated.
J.W. Verret, an associate professor at the Antonin Scalia Law School at George Mason University and a Harvard classmate of Jackson’s, said that the two of them have often discussed issues concerning transparency and the structure of securities markets. While Verret said he couldn’t recall Jackson every speaking specifically about munis, he described Jackson as “more of a pro-regulation kind of guy” who has been interested in improving the transparency of the securities markets generally -- a continuous theme in the muni market.
Verret said that Jackson’s personality is such that if confirmed he would be deeply inquisitive of all the issues under the SEC’s purview.
“I think he’s got a deep curiosity,” Verret said. “He’s probably going to dive in further than anyone else does on any issue.”
The confirmations of Peirce and Jackson would bring the commission back to full strength for the first time in more than a year. Currently, Clayton is joined only by Republican Michael Piwowar and Democrat Kara Stein.