Is There Life After the SEC? Yes, on Corporate Boards


Former Securities and Exchange Commission member Luis Aguilar recently announced that he plans to join the board of directors at financial communications company Donnelley Financial Solutions, once it is spun off from RR Donnelley & Sons Co.

Aguilar is following a path that many former SEC commissioners have taken—joining a corporate board.

Former SEC chairman Mary Schapiro, for example, sits on the boards of General Electric Co. and London Stock Exchange Group.

Former SEC chairman Elisse Walter sits on the board of Occidental Petroleum Corp. Former commissioner Daniel Gallagher is a director at the Irish Stock Exchange, while former commissioner Kathleen Casey is on HSBC Holdings plc’s board.

Corporate boards, to be effective, must include a combination of skills, experience and backgrounds that best suits the company in question. SEC commissioners come with experience and knowledge that are pretty unique in the marketplace. That wealth of experience can help a company improve its corporate governance and other practices.

GE was one of the first large companies to adopt proxy access, which facilitates shareholders’ ability to nominate directors. Before that step, the company already was considered a corporate governance “thought leader,” and it’s not clear whether Schapiro played a role in its decision (GE does have 15 other board members). But while Schapiro was SEC chairman, she was a staunch supporter of proxy access and helped push through a federal rule that ultimately was invalidated in 2011 by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit.

Meanwhile, think how much good current SEC chair Mary Jo White could do, should she join a corporate board when she leaves the SEC. It’s not that far out a thought. White was the first female director at Nasdaq, where she served from 2002 to 2006, so it wouldn’t be a surprise if she were to be a board member again when she departs the agency.

White has invaluable experience in law enforcement and market structure issues. She also has stressed the need for companies to provide useful information to investors in their SEC filings. My vote would be for her to join the board of a company whose disclosures need improving.