A man carries an umbrella in the rain as he passes the New York Stock Exchange on Oct. 16, 2014.
Brendan McDermid/Reuters

Dems take aim at Wall Street lawyer before he oversees Wall Street

Of all the many Goldman Sachs veterans Donald Trump has tapped for key posts in his administration, perhaps the toughest to defend is Jay Clayton, the president’s choice to lead the Securities and Exchange Commission. He is, after all, a Wall Street lawyer who’s been asked by the president to help oversee Wall Street.

In a new op-ed, Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.), members of the Senate Banking Committee that will consider Clayton’s nomination today, sounded a skeptical note.
American families need an SEC chairman who will watch out for their interests – not short-term corporate profits. That’s why we’ll be asking Clayton about his willingness to be more vigilant and increase oversight of stock buybacks. We also want to know if Clayton will be willing to help investors identify companies that choose to invest in the U.S. economy and American workers.

If the SEC would require publicly traded companies to disclose more detailed information about jobs moved overseas – and jobs brought back home – investors could choose to invest in companies that make our economy stronger. Additionally, requiring public, country-by-country disclosure of profits stashed overseas would reveal to investors the companies that rely on tax havens to avoid U.S. taxes.
Though the op-ed didn’t mention Clayton’s background, it doesn’t offer much hope for those seeking robust oversight of the finance industry. As the Washington Post recently reported, “As chairman of the SEC, Clayton would help police many of the same large banks he has spent decades representing as a lawyer, including Goldman Sachs and Barclays.”

And that’s no small detail. As we discussed when Clayton was first nominated, the Securities and Exchange Commission has a variety of responsibilities, but one of its principal functions is regulating and overseeing Wall Street. And yet, here’s Donald Trump, who spent months as a candidate railing against the influence of the financial industry in Washington, tapping a Wall Street insider to oversee Wall Street.

It didn’t help matters when the firm Clayton works for scrubbed his online bio. Politico reported a couple of weeks ago:
Clayton is a partner at Sullivan & Cromwell, which until recently had posted details about his clients, accomplishments, awards and recent publications. That information is no longer accessible on the firm’s website, but can be found by searching the internet archive.

The Office of Government Ethics this week released Clayton’s financial-disclosure forms, which contain much of the Information about his clients. The OGE filing also lists details about Clayton’s financial assets and earnings.

But the disclosure does not mention some of Clayton’s previous work that was listed on his Sullivan & Cromwell biography as recently as January. For example, it does not show that he worked on initial public offerings for Alibaba, Moelis, Och-Ziff or Oaktree Capital…. Nor does it mention that he represented Eni, an Italian oil and gas company that was investigated by the SEC and Justice Department for alleged anti-bribery violations. The company reached a settlement with the government in 2010.
This is not a position that ordinarily generates a contentious confirmation fight, but Clayton’s nomination is likely to be different than most. Watch this space.

Financial Industry

Dems take aim at Wall Street lawyer before he oversees Wall Street