SEC Chair Mary Jo White Announces Departure as Regulatory Shift Begins

U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission Chair Mary Jo White will depart her role coinciding with the end of the Obama Administration in January 2017.

Her resignation marks the symbolic shift in the composition of the Commission, as the bipartisan panel faces a minimum of three new appointments from president-elect Donald Trump. With her departure, just two of the SEC’s five commissioner seats will remain filled, with Kara Stein and Michael Piwowar continuing on in their posts. Recently, two nominees put forth by President Barack Obama have been stymied by a gridlocked Senate.

White, whose term had been scheduled to end in 2019, spent much of her nearly four-year tenure completing mandates created under the Dodd-Frank Act, considered to be one of Obama’s signature domestic policies.

Members of Trump’s transition team and his advisors, however, have indicated the possibility of “dismantling” Dodd-Frank through major revisions. His financial regulatory agencies transition team led Paul Atkins, for instance, is on record describing it as a “calamity.”

Still, few have called for its total removal, with Trump campaign advisor Anthony Scaramucci saying that the administration would review the law and “the worst anti-business parts of it will be gutted.”

The hope, Scaramucci said, is to reduce federal agency regulations by as much as 10 percent in an attempt to stimulate economic growth and help the flow of capital.

DOL Fiduciary Rule Under Fire?

Scaramucci identified another Obama administration initiative in Trump’s crosshairs as the DOL’s new fiduciary rule, which is due to take effect in April 2017.

Republicans previously attempted to kill the rule by passing a bill against it, but the effort had little teeth because of the nearly certain probability of an Obama veto. Though Trump has not spoken specifically about the DOL rule either during the campaign cycle or since winning the election, his advisers have voiced an intention of stopping it.

“It would be the next piece of major legislation to kill jobs and hurt investors,” Scaramucci wrote in a recent op-ed in the Financial Times.

Meanwhile, Texas Rep. Jeb Hensarling, chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, recently said he plans to take his Financial CHOICE Act, which would replace Dodd-Frank and kill the DOL fiduciary rule, to a vote after the election, and that Trump supports it.

Regardless of the specifics, it seems certain that Trump’s administration is focused on providing regulatory relief as it reshapes the way Wall Street is overseen by the SEC.

Under White’s tenure, the Commission brought more than 2,850 enforcement actions, and obtained judgments and orders totaling more than $13.4 billion. White also oversaw the increased prominence of the whistleblower program, which has awarded over $100 million since its inception.

White also increased SEC exam staffing by around 20 percent, shifted staff to heighten the focus on the investment management industry, and embraced the increased use and enhancement of technology tools in analyzing data and detecting potential misconduct.

“My duty has been to ensure that the Commission implemented strong investor and market protections, and to establish an enduring foundation for future progress in the most critical areas – asset management regulation, equity market structure and disclosure effectiveness,” she said in a statement. “Thanks to the hard work and dedication of the SEC’s staff, we have accomplished both.”

Some of that work, however, is likely to be undone.

Ascendant addressed some of the potential impacts and implications of a Trump presidency during our recent conference, A Commitment to Compliance: Climbing the Mountain of Regulatory Expectations, held in September in San Diego.

Additional guidance will be forthcoming during Ascendant’s December ComplianceCast. Click here to register.

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