Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Massachusetts Democrat, on Tuesday sent a letter to Securities and Exchange Commission Chair Mary Jo White, blasting her leadership at the SEC for the past two years as “extremely disappointing.” Warren said the commission has failed to “consistently and aggressively enforce securities law and protect investors and the public” under White’s watch.
In a press release sent to media outlets, Warren’s office highlighted four areas in which White’s SEC has fallen short: the commission’s failure to finalize rules requiring disclosure of the ratio of CEO pay to the median worker; its failure to curb the use of waivers for companies that violate securities laws; the SEC’s continued practice of settling the vast majority of cases without requiring meaningful admissions of guilt; and White’s repeated recusals related to her prior employment and her husband’s current employment.
In addition to these four areas, Sen. Warren expressed concern with the SEC’s failure to address undisclosed corporate campaign contributions, agency rulemakings “that have created large loopholes” in Dodd-Frank disclosure rules, and rules for small business capital formation that preempted important state consumer protections.
“The public relies on the SEC to act as the cop on the beat for an honest marketplace — issuing rules that ensure that investors can make informed decisions and holding rule breakers accountable for their actions,” Warren wrote in the letter.
“When the SEC falls down on the job, the impact is felt throughout the economy as it touches every American family. I am disappointed that you have not been the strong leader that many hoped for — and that you promised to be.”
Warren then asked White to provide information within a month about inconsistencies in her public statements regarding the CEO pay disclosure rules and a timeline for its completion; a list of SEC settlements and whether they required an admission of guilt; details of SEC waiver decisions; a list of White’s recusals from investigations or cases; and an explanation of why the SEC removed campaign finance disclosure from its agenda.
A New York Times article Tuesday said that that White “wasted no time” in issuing a response to Warren’s letter.
“I am very proud of the agency’s accomplishments under my leadership,” White told the NYT. “Senator Warren’s mischaracterization of my statements and the agency’s accomplishments is unfortunate, but it will not detract from the work we have done, and will continue to do, on behalf of investors.”
Other SEC officials told the NYT that during White’s tenure, the agency has brought more than 1,400 enforcement actions, and in 2014, the agency had imposed orders seeking to collect more than $4.1 billion in penalties and restitution.