Exclusive: Jay Clayton is stepping down from the S.E.C.
Jay Clayton, the former corporate deal lawyer who has led the Securities and Exchange Commission since 2017, is stepping down as chairman at the end of the year. (His term would have expired in June.) Here’s a rundown of his tenure:
Individual investors were his focus. In his first speech as chairman, Mr. Clayton emphasized protecting “the long-term interests of the Main Street investor.” That approach was reflected in moves like stopping the car-rental company Hertz selling stock while in bankruptcy protection, and cracking down on cryptocurrency frauds. He also expressed skepticism about disclosure rules for SPACs, the blank-check investment funds hot on Wall Street, echoing concerns that they may hurt ordinary investors at the expense of the savvy deal makers running them.
But he didn’t rock the boat that much. Early on, Mr. Clayton said he saw no need for “wholesale changes to the commission’s fundamental regulatory approach.” Indeed, as at other agencies, some of the big initiatives at his S.E.C. rolled back regulations:
Despite criticism he wasn’t tough enough, enforcement increased on his watch. The S.E.C. pursued 3,152 enforcement cases during Mr. Clayton’s tenure, slightly more than brought by Mary Jo White from 2013 to 2017. The Clayton era also saw $16.8 billion in financial remedies, again slightly more than under Ms. White.
That said, NPR reported that the S.E.C. brought just 32 insider-trading enforcement actions last year, the fewest since 1996.
High-profile targets included Elon Musk and Elizabeth Holmes. The S.E.C.’s biggest battle was when it sued Tesla in 2018 over Mr. Musk’s tweets about taking the carmaker private. Mr. Musk had to step down as chairman and pay a $20 million fine. That same year, the commission accused Ms. Holmes of lying about Theranos’s blood-testing capabilities, extracting a $500,000 settlement and barring her from serving as an executive or director of a public company. (She didn’t have to admit or deny guilt.)
Mr. Clayton’s biggest controversy was about his effort to score a top federal prosecutor post. Earlier this year, he told Attorney General Bill Barr that he was interested in becoming the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, despite having never been a litigator. After Geoffrey Berman was fired from the post, a political firestorm forced Mr. Clayton to back off.
He doesn’t plan to rejoin corporate America right away, we hear, and it’s unclear what he will pursue next.
What’s next for the S.E.C.? Like other financial regulators, the commission is likely to get tougher under President-elect Joe Biden: Names being floated to replace Mr. Clayton reportedly include Gary Gensler, an Obama-era financial regulator, and Preet Bharara, who led the Southern District under Mr. Obama.
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Moderna says its Covid-19 vaccine is 94.5 percent effective. The drugmaker’s announcement this morning — based, like Pfizer’s last week, on early clinical trial data — vastly exceeds health officials’ expectations. (Still to be figured out: how states and cities will distribute these finicky vaccines.) The news comes as the U.S. hit 11 million Covid-19 cases.