The Senate on Tuesday confirmed Jay Clayton, the Wall Street attorney chosen by President Donald Trump, to lead the Securities and Exchange Commission.
The vote was 61-37 to give Clayton the job of running the independent agency that oversees Wall Street and the financial markets. Nine Democrats and one independent, Maine’s Angus King, joined 51 Republicans in backing the nominee.
Clayton, a partner in the prominent law firm Sullivan & Cromwell, has done significant legal work for Wall Street powerhouse Goldman Sachs and an array of other financial giants and corporations.
“His extensive work in the private sector will serve him well as he looks to strengthen our financial markets, thereby supporting American businesses, boosting job creation, and spurring economic growth,” said Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Republican from Kentucky.
As SEC chairman, Clayton will be responsible for protecting investors from misconduct on Wall Street. He will oversee the enforcement of rules written by the SEC under the law that reshaped the regulation of banks and Wall Street after the 2008 financial crisis and the Great Recession.
He will take part in deciding on enforcement actions that SEC attorneys bring against corporations and financial firms. In line with Trump’s pledge to ease many rules that flowed from the 2010 Dodd-Frank financial regulatory law, a Clayton-led SEC would be expected to take a comparatively loose approach to regulation.
Democrats railed against Trump tapping another Goldman Sachs executive. White House strategist Steve Bannon and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin are former alumni.
“We hear of a president who talks about draining the swamp, that wants regulators and people in Washington that don’t have conflicts of interest, that can look at this in a fair-minded, clear-eyed way,” said Senator Sherrod Brown, a Democrat from Ohio who voted against the nomination. “Instead, we see a White House that’s full of Goldman Sachs … former officials. In fact, the White House on some days looks like a retreat of Goldman Sachs executives.”
At his confirmation hearing in March, Clayton sought to reassure senators that he would act only in the public interest.
“I’m committed to showing no favoritism to anyone in this position,” Clayton testified.