Risk & Compliance

Trump Names Wall Street Lawyer to Head SEC

Jay Clayton, who has spent decades defending large banks, would become another Trump appointee with longstanding Wall Street ties.
Matthew HellerJanuary 4, 2017
Trump Names Wall Street Lawyer to Head SEC

President-elect Donald Trump on Wednesday named Jay Clayton, a Wall Street lawyer who has defended large banks including Goldman Sachs, to serve as chairman of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

Clayton, a partner at the law firm of Sullivan & Cromwell, would replace Mary Jo White. His wife works as a private wealth adviser at Goldman and he would become another Trump appointee with longstanding Wall Street ties.

“Sullivan is a key outside legal adviser for Goldman and is more closely associated with Wall Street than perhaps any other law firm,” The Wall Street Journal noted.

Trump said Clayton’s background as a Wall Street lawyer will help unleash the “job-creating power” of the economy while still providing strong oversight.

“We need to undo many regulations which have stifled investment in American businesses, and restore oversight of the financial industry in a way that does not harm American workers,” the president-elect said in a statement.

Jay Clayton

Jay Clayton

But Sherrod Brown, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Banking Committee, described Clayton as an “attorney who’s spent his career helping Wall Street beat the rap,” while Adam Green, co-founder of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, compared his nomination to allowing the “fox to guard the henhouse on Wall Street.”

Clayton beat out former federal prosecutor Debra Wong Yang for the SEC job. According to Sullivan’s website, he defended Goldman, JPMorgan Chase, Barclays and other banks against allegations that they fraudulently issued or underwrote hundreds of toxic mortgage deals before the subprime collapse. He has also represented Morgan Stanley and Bear Stearns in deals.

“While White spent her tenure trying to implement a wave of rules coming from Dodd-Frank, Clayton could be charged with helping Trump carry out his pledge to ‘dismantle’ the reform law,” CNN Money said.

Other Wall Street alumni nominated to join the Trump administration include former Goldman executive Steven Mnuchin as Treasury secretary; former Goldman President Gary Cohn as head of the National Economic Council; and private-equity investor Wilbur Ross as secretary of the Commerce Department.

Image: Sullivan & Cromwell