<span class="articleLocation”>Outgoing U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission
Chair Mary Jo White had some harsh parting words for Congress on
Tuesday and a plea to the incoming administration to ensure the
regulator remains independent and insulated from political
In what is likely her final speech before stepping down
after President-elect Donald Trump is sworn into office on
Friday, White lamented the “prescriptive” rule-writing
requirements that Congress has imposed on the SEC and said such
efforts harm the SEC’s ability to get things done or exercise
discretion on complicated market issues.
“The strength and utility of the agency’s structure depends
on an environment that rewards expertise and frank dialogue, not
partisan affiliation and political games,” White said in
prepared remarks to the Economic Club of New York.
“If the ability and resolve of commissioners to act
independently diminishes, so too will the opportunity for
solutions that, while politically unpopular, best serve
investors and markets.”
White became SEC chair in the spring of 2013. Unlike her
predecessors, she did not have to deal with putting out fires
from market crises.
Her tenure was marked largely by efforts to complete a
lengthy list of rules required by the 2010 Dodd-Frank Wall
Street reform law and the 2012 Jumpstart Our Business Startups
Trump’s choice to head the SEC, attorney Jay Clayton, has
not opined publicly on his priorities or future rule-making
White’s speech did not mention Trump or Clayton by name. But
she urged future SEC leaders to resist lobbying by interest
groups or other pressures, and do what is best for investors and
the economy as a whole.
“The choices ahead for the agency… will not be easy,” she
“Continuing to build an effective post-crisis market
regulator will mean imposing measures that sometimes draw sharp
outcry from interest groups.”
White reflected a bit on her own tenure at the SEC, which
she acknowledged has often been marked by “hard decisions that
have attracted criticism from both political parties.”
She also took a parting shot at some legislation being
pushed by Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives.
One bill, which passed last week, would impose additional
requirements on the SEC to conduct economic and other
cost-benefit analyses before it can adopt new rules.
White said it would “provide no benefit to investors” and
hamstring the agency from responding to a market crisis.
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