Outgoing Securities and Exchange Commission Chair Mary JoWhite made her decision to leave the agency before thePresidential election, according to testimony she gave in a finalappearance before the House Financial Services Committee.

|

Chair White announced she was stepping down this week, effectiveat the end of President Obama’s term. Her term was not scheduled toofficially expire until 2019.

|

White received wide praise from lawmakers during the nearlythree-hour hearing, which addressed ongoing regulatory initiativesat the Commission ranging from oversight of the fixed incomemarkets, the regulation of so-called robo advisors, small business’access to capital markets, simplification of corporate disclosuresto the SEC, and a proposed rule that would allowmutual fund providers to distribute documents electronically.

|

Related: The fiduciary rule's future underTrump

|

Rep. Brad Sherman, D-CA, urged Chair White to stay beyond herintended departure date, until her successor could beconfirmed.

|

“The tradition is for the SEC Chair to resign when the newPresident takes over, but that tradition was developed at a timewhen we had a more efficient Senate and Congress that could quicklyconfirm your successor,” said Sherman.

|

White’s departure will also create a vacancy on the 10-memberFinancial Stability Oversight Council, the regulatory body createdby the Dodd-Frank Act of 2010 that designates systemicallyimportant financial institutions. FSOC “should not have an emptyseat,” said Sherman.

|

SEC fiduciary rule still a distant proposition

Rep. Ann Wagner, R- MO, a member of the Financial ServicesCommittee who first sponsored legislation to block the Departmentof Labor’s fiduciary rule in 2013, pressed White for herperspective on the rule’s potential negative impact on retailinvestors.

|

Wagner cited recent announcements from Merrill Lynch and otheradvice providers that will limit investors’ options in IRAs.

|

“We’re all concerned about anything that results in deprivingretail investors of reasonably priced reliable advice,” said White.“Markets do adjust to rules in ways that sometimes have effectsthat are not desirable.”

|

The Dodd-Frank Act authorized the SEC to explore the need topromulgate its own uniform fiduciary standard.

|

|

While White has publically supported such a rule, thefive-member Commission under her tenure has been politicallydivided on its merits.

|

To date, SEC staff have only provided a detailed outline of howthe SEC would approach its own rulemaking, which White said “is avery difficult thing to do well.”

|

“Our job is to coordinate as best we can (with the DOL rule) andprovide relief if we have the authority to and if it makes sense tominimize impacts,” said White.

|

But that coordination with DOL’s rule will not advance anytimesoon.

|

“I don’t think there is consensus to move this forward in thecurrent commission,” said White. “This is a really hard, complexrule making. I think it is something important to do, but I am onevote. We are a commission of three,” she added, referring to twocommissioner vacancies being held up in Congress.

|

The search for a new SEC chair

|

Chair White was appointed by President Obama and quicklyconfirmed by Congress in April of 2013.

|

During her tenure, the Commission brought more than 2,850enforcement actions, more than any other three-year period in SEC’shistory, and charged over 3,300 companies and 2,700 individuals,resulting in about $13.4 billion in monetary sanctions.

|

White was the first woman to be appointed the U.S. StatesAttorney for the Southern District of New York, and oversaw theprosecution of John Gotti and the terrorists responsible for the1993 World Trade Center Bombing.

|

More recently, she litigated in private practice before herappointment to the SEC.

|

In one 2007 high profile case, she successfully defended a NewYork Times journalist against a defamation suit brought byPresident-elect Donald Trump, as was noted in Chair White’s finalhearing by ranking member Maxine Waters, D-CA.

|

Chair White’s nominated replacement could be revealed in amatter of weeks, as the Trump transition team is fast at workparsing Cabinet nominations.

|

Paul Atkins, CEO of Patomak Global Partners, a complianceconsultancy to the financial services industry, has been tapped tohead the new administration’s search to replace White.

|

Atkins served as an SEC Commissioner from 2002 to 2008. Intestimony before a 2015 House Financial Services Committee onDodd-Frank, Atkins expressed concerns over the DOL fiduciary rule’simpact on small investors.

|

Of the rule, which was still being proposed, he said, “very fewbrokers will be able to receive commissions” under the fiduciaryrule’s Best Interest Contract Exemption.

|

“This would be a tragic outcome for millions of small savers,”said Atkins.

Complete your profile to continue reading and get FREE access to BenefitsPRO, part of your ALM digital membership.

  • Critical BenefitsPRO information including cutting edge post-reform success strategies, access to educational webcasts and videos, resources from industry leaders, and informative Newsletters.
  • Exclusive discounts on ALM, BenefitsPRO magazine and BenefitsPRO.com events
  • Access to other award-winning ALM websites including ThinkAdvisor.com and Law.com
NOT FOR REPRINT

© 2024 ALM Global, LLC, All Rights Reserved. Request academic re-use from www.copyright.com. All other uses, submit a request to [email protected]. For more information visit Asset & Logo Licensing.

Nick Thornton

Nick Thornton is a financial writer covering retirement and health care issues for BenefitsPRO and ALM Media. He greatly enjoys learning from the vast minds in the legal, academic, advisory and money management communities when covering the retirement space. He's also written on international marketing trends, financial institution risk management, defense and energy issues, the restaurant industry in New York City, surfing, cigars, rum, travel, and fishing. When not writing, he's pushing into some land or water.