Lawyer, SEC

U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission Chairman Jay Clayton has made his first major appointment, naming Silicon Valley lawyer William Hinman to lead the SEC’s division that oversees public company filings.

Hinman, a retired partner of law firm Simpson Thacher & Bartlett, will serve as director of the division of corporation finance. As an attorney, he has worked on many high-profile initial public offerings, including those of Facebook, Google, and Alibaba.

“Bill is widely recognized for his judgment and expertise in the area of corporate finance,” Clayton said in a statement. “He has spent the last 37 years working in our public and private markets, and he understands the SEC’s mission.”

According to The Financial Times, the appointment of an attorney “steeped in technology fundraising is an indication that Mr. Clayton intends to loosen rules around capital raising.”

“Pro-business groups, such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, have argued that regulations enacted since the corporate fraud scandals of 2002 have been too onerous on small companies, deterring them from listing on U.S. exchanges,” the FT said.

Clayton himself is an attorney with deep ties to Wall Street, having spent decades defending large banks including Goldman Sachs. “In recent years, our markets have faced growing competition from abroad,” he said at his Senate confirmation hearing, noting that U.S.-listed IPOs by non-U.S. companies have “slowed dramatically.”

“More significantly, it is clear that our public capital markets are less attractive to business than in the past,” he added.

As director of corporation finance, Hinman will help craft any new rules for public and private offerings and, according to Reuters, will also have direct input in other critical areas, including staff decisions about whether public companies can exclude shareholder proposals from corporate ballots.

“I have worked closely with the dedicated and talented staff of the division of corporation finance throughout my career in private practice, and it will be a privilege to work with them to advance the SEC’s mission,” Hinman said.

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