Risk & Compliance

SEC Gets Back to Full Five-Member Strength

The commission will no longer be short-handed after the Senate confirms the appointments of Robert Jackson and Hester Peirce.
Matthew HellerDecember 22, 2017

The U.S. Senate has confirmed two nominees to the Securities and Exchange Commission, giving the regulator a full complement of commissioners for the first time since 2015.

Democratic appointee Robert Jackson and Republican appointee Hester Peirce were confirmed on Thursday during an executive session before the Senate left for the holiday recess.

Jackson is a professor and the director of the Program on Corporate Law and Policy at Columbia Law School while Peirce is a senior research fellow at the right-leaning Mercatus Center at George Mason University. She previously worked at the SEC as a staff attorney and as counsel to former commissioner Paul Atkins.

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“We are pleased that the Commission will now, after more than two years, have a full complement of five commissioners,” said Karen Barr, president and CEO of the Investment Adviser Association. “We look forward to working with Chairman Clayton and all of the commissioners on regulatory and investor protection initiatives that have a critical impact on investors, the markets and the U.S. economy.”

The nominations had been held up by Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisc.) over concerns about how Jackson and Peirce would approach such issues as activist hedge funds, stock buybacks and executive compensation.

Baldwin is sponsoring legislation that would require more disclosure from activist investors and also wants the SEC to study buybacks and impose stricter rules on executive pay.

In his response, Jackson said he shared Baldwin’s “concern about the effects hedge funds can have on American companies, workers, and families” and the volume of buybacks. He also suggested that “corporate executives are too focused on short-term share prices instead of sustainable value creation.”

For her part, Peirce responded that buybacks, if conducted properly and used legally, “can contribute to economic growth” by allowing shareholders who received money from companies without productive uses for it to invest that money in other companies that did have productive uses for it.

“Whether a particular buyback benefits the economy is a fact-specific question, but it is useful to monitor trends about how and why buybacks are occurring,” she said.