Industry Preps for SEC Holding Pattern


The first part of 2017 should prove a quiet time for the US Securities and Exchange Commission as SEC Chair Mary Jo White announced her plans to resign her position at the end of the Obama administration.

Her announcement should not come as a surprise since it is a politically appointed position, according to Brad Bailey, research director, securities & investments at industry analysis firm Celent.

Brad Bailey, Celent

Brad Bailey, Celent

“Any time there is a transition between parties in power at the national level, there will be an implication for the SEC,” he said. Bailey. “Given how the Republicans have done in the executive and legislative branches, it will take a little time to make and select nominees to the SEC. Given Trump’s place as an outsider, there is someone on the transition team working on this.”

In the meantime, SEC Commissioners Kara Stein (D) and Michael Piwowar (R) will be the only sitting commissioners at the start of the Trump administration. Commissioner Stein’s tenure, which began in August 2013, is set to expire in 2017. Commissioner Piwowar’s term expires in 2018.

Operating without four commissioners and a chairperson is not a new situation for the regulator, noted Bailey.

The Commission has had two vacant seats since Commissioners Daniel Gallagher and Luis Aguilar stepped down in October 2015 and December 2015, respectively, and the Obama administration failed to have the US Senate approve Lisa Fairfax (D) and Hester Peirce (R) as their replacements.

Bailey doubts that the diminished SEC will affect issues that the regulator has already implemented, such as the tick-size pilot, or has handed off to the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority to implement.

“The SEC can function in a holding pattern I would imagine,” he said. “I cannot say that things would progress forward in any way.”

Chair White will end her tentative 39-month term as one of the longest-serving SEC Chairs behind Arthur Levitt (July 27, 1993 to February 9, 2001), John Shad (May 6, 1981 to June 18, 1987), and Richard Breeden (October 11, 1989 to May 7, 1993).

“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,” said Chair White in a prepared statement. “Thanks to the hard work and dedication of the SEC’s staff, we have accomplished both.”

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