After Delay, Senate Committee Approves SEC Nominees

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By Rob Tricchinelli

May 19 — The Senate Banking Committee approved the nominations May 19 of think-tank scholar Hester Peirce and law professor Lisa Fairfax as members of the Securities and Exchange Commission, more than a month after their status looked in jeopardy due to Democratic opposition.

The committee was scheduled to vote on the nominations April 7 but postponed action after Sens. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), and other Democrats opposed the nominees in a public hearing, creating procedural confusion (68 SLD, 4/8/16).

The SEC has been shorthanded since October and two commissioners shy of a full complement since the beginning of 2016.

Voice Vote

The committee convened in a small room adjacent to the Senate floor and approved the nominations by voice vote in a bloc with three other executive branch nominees.

Also approved were Jay Lerner, to be inspector general of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, Amias Gerety to be an assistant secretary of the Treasury and Matthew Jeppson to be director of the U.S. Mint. The nominations can now be considered by the full Senate, but the timing of any such vote is still uncertain.

Peirce, a Republican, is a scholar at the Mercatus Center and a former SEC staff member. Fairfax, a Democrat, is a law professor at George Washington University.

Political Spending

The Democrats’ April opposition came because the nominees didn't commit to supporting a political spending disclosure rule.

That kind of rule would require public corporations to disclose their spending on political activities. A Republican rider to a spending law prohibits the agency from adopting the rule, but Democrats say the SEC should prepare one for adoption once the language expires.

Nearly every Democrat in the Senate wrote to SEC Chairman Mary Jo White in August urging the agency to take up the matter, and the opposition to the commissioner nominees shows how strongly some Democrats feel about the issue (169 SLD, 9/1/15).

Many Democrats, including the Banking Committee's ranking member Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), support confirming the nominees.

Schumer, Warren and Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) opposed the nominees in the May 19 vote. So did Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.), who previously opposed Lisa Fairfax's nomination.

In April, Warren said it would be “dangerous” to put Peirce on the commission given her critical commentary of the Dodd-Frank Act.

To contact the reporter on this story: Rob Tricchinelli in Washington at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Phyllis Diamond at