SEC Chair To Step Down When Trump Takes Office

While the world waits to see what happens to the leadership and policies of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the head of another federal financial regulator has made it clear that she will be stepping down after President Obama leaves office, even though she could have stayed on in the office for several more years.

Former federal prosecutor Mary Jo White has been Chair of the Securities and Commission since April 2013. She still had a good deal of time left on her five-year term, and she could not have been readily removed from the commission by the new president.

However, this afternoon White confirmed that she will indeed step down from her position when President-elect Donald Trump takes office in Jan. 2017.

The SEC is supposed to have five commissioners — one of them named as Chair by the president — but the agency currently only has three, including White. In 2015, President Obama named candidates to fill those vacancies but the Senate has refused to confirm them.

With White’s early exit, that will only leave two commissioners until the new administration appoints a replacement and two others to fill the open vacancies. As the Wall Street Journal notes, this could result in regulatory gridlock until then, with either of the two commissioners being able to effectively veto any matter.

The resignation of White, and her eventual replacement by a Trump administration employee, clears the path for some of the financial deregulation promised by the GOP candidate during the presidential campaign.

The Washington Post points out that the bank-regulating Office of Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) is set to lose its chief, Thomas Curry, when his term expires in early 2017. If the Trump White House is also able to remove — or neuter through restructuring — CFPB Director Richard Cordray, that would roll back nearly seven years of financial reform.

Paul Atkins, who served as an SEC Commissioner under Pres. George W. Bush during the six years leading up to the economic crash, is currently leading Trump’s transition team on the transition of the SEC and other regulators.

According to one financial policy analyst, Atkins “wants to let companies do their thing and not get in the way very much.”

At the time White took office in 2013, the country was still stinging after years of post-recession recovery and there was a great deal of enmity directed at the financial services industry. Even though these companies paid billions of dollars for wrongdoing, they often settled without having to admit guilt or liability.

In 2014, White pledged to hold more financial companies accountable and her office has since required admissions of wrongdoing from more than 70 defendants. However, she has been criticized for dragging her feet on some Dodd-Frank reforms and for still allowing the overwhelming majority of enforcement actions to be settled.

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