Senator Elizabeth Warren recently released a letter to SEC Chair Mary Jo White, complaining that her leadership of the SEC over the past two years has been “extremely disappointing.” The Senator opined that the nation’s largest financial institutions are “mounting an aggressive effort to repeal, postpone, and dilute” the laws enacted by Congress following the financial crisis, and called for more rigorous activity by the SEC in a number of key areas.
First, Senator Warren criticized the SEC’s delay in implementing Dodd-Frank rules requiring disclosure of CEO pay, pay for companies’ median workers, and the ratio of the two.
Second, Senator Warren criticized the SEC’s failure to require admissions of wrongdoing in SEC enforcement cases, noting that in 520 settlements during Chair White’s tenure, the SEC had required admissions of guilt in only 19 cases. Moreover, Senator Warren noted that in 11 of those 19 cases, the SEC required only a broad admission of facts specified by the SEC rather than requiring the firms to admit violations of specific securities laws.
Third, Senator Warren criticized the SEC for granting waivers to certain large issuers permitting them to by-pass otherwise-required SEC reviews in connection with capital-raising activity, even though the issuers had previously been found to have violated the anti-fraud provision of the securities laws.
Fourth, Senator Warren expressed concern over conflicts of interest that have arisen as a result of Chair White’s husband’s role as a Wall Street attorney. The letter referred to a New York Times article that reported that the Chair had recused herself from at least ten investigations into clients of her husband’s firm, and noted that her recusal could create a deadlock among the four remaining Commissioners, raising an “important issue” for the agency.
Finally, Senator Warren criticized the SEC for failing to adopt rules requiring disclosure of corporate political expenditures, for failing to enact stronger rules requiring disclosure of information for asset-backed securities, and for implementing rules that preempted state investor-protection regulations in certain respects.