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Trump taps top Wall Street lawyer, Jay Clayton, to chair SEC

Represented Goldman Sachs, Bear Stearns, Ally, others during financial crisis

One of the financial sector's top regulators will soon have a new leader, as President-elect Donald Trump announced Wednesday that he plans to nominate a top Wall Street lawyer to fill the position of chair of the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Late last year, Mary Jo White announced that she planned to step down as the chair of the SEC at the end of the Obama administration.

On Wednesday, Trump announced that he chose Jay Clayton, who represented Goldman Sachs, Bear Stearns, Ally Financial, Barclays Capital and a number of other large financial institutions during and after the financial crisis, to replace White and serve as the new chair of the SEC.

Clayton is currently a partner at Sullivan & Cromwell, and in an announcement, Trump praised Clayton’s experience “helping companies navigate complex federal regulations.”

According to Clayton’s bio on the Sullivan & Cromwell website, his experience includes:

  • Representing Barclays Capital in connection with its purchase of assets of Lehman Brothers out of bankruptcy
  • Representing Goldman Sachs in connection with the investment of $5 billion by Berkshire Hathaway and the Treasury Department’s TARP investment
  • Representing Bear Stearns in connection with the sale of Bear Stearns to JPMorgan Chase

Clayton’s bio also states that he represented Ally Financial in its part of the massive $25 billion settlement with the Department of Justice, the Department of Housing and Urban Development and state attorneys general over robo-signing. That settlement also included Bank of America, Wells Fargo, JPMorgan Chase, and Citigroup.

Clayton’s bio also states that he represented several unnamed “large financial institutions” in a number of separate matters, including aiding one company with the “settlement of mortgage related securities claims with the Federal Housing Finance Agency,” representing another company in the “settlement of mortgage related claims with the DOJ, HUD and the FHFA,” and representing another company that underwent a “regulatory review of transactions in government securities.”

As chair of the SEC, Trump said that he expects Clayton to serve an “important role in unleashing the job-creating power of our economy by encouraging investment in American companies while providing strong oversight of Wall Street and related industries.”

Trump’s announcement also stated that “robust accountability” will be a “hallmark” of Clayton’s term at the SEC, with the “financial security of the American people” serving as a top priority.

Trump also said that his administration plans to roll back financial regulations, with Clayton serving as a key player in that effort.

“Jay Clayton is a highly talented expert on many aspects of financial and regulatory law, and he will ensure our financial institutions can thrive and create jobs while playing by the rules at the same time,” Trump said in a statement. “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.”

In a statement, Clayton thanked Trump for the opportunity to lead the SEC, and laid out his plans for the agency.

“If confirmed, we are going to work together with key stakeholders in the financial system to make sure we provide investors and our companies with the confidence to invest together in America,” Clayton said. “We will carefully monitor our financial sector, as we set policy that encourages American companies to do what they do best: create jobs.” 

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