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Sept. 20 — Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) ripped SEC Chairman Mary Jo White’s tenure Sept. 20, saying she moved too slowly on Dodd-Frank Act rules and let too much corporate malfeasance go undetected.
“The SEC, under the leadership of Mary Jo White, has been singularly uninterested in using its authority to secure transparency and accountability,” Merkley said today at a Center for American Progress event in Washington. “Chair White has failed to exercise appropriate oversight, and she has slow-walked reforms required by law.”
Merkley's comments add to criticism of the agency by lawmakers, including Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), who in June butted heads with White over the SEC's attempts to revisit its rules governing public company disclosures (115 SLD, 6/15/16).
Merkley, a member of the Senate Banking Committee, cited lengthy delays in finishing the Volcker Rule and as well as inaction on a proposal that would require public companies to disclose whether their executives are allowed to hedge against their own stock.
A Securities and Exchange Commission representative, who asked not to be named, pushed back on Merkley's characterizations.
“White’s leadership has taken numerous transformative rules across the finish line that have strengthened protections for investors and our markets, including the Volcker Rule and rules reforming money market funds, asset-backed securities and credit ratings agencies,” the official told Bloomberg BNA.
White has faced criticism from lawmakers in both parties, as well as the agency's other commissioners, over the speed of rulemakings.
For example, large chunks of Dodd-Frank's derivatives provisions, grouped together in a sweeping section, remain uncompleted and even some adopted rules won't take effect until others are done.
Yet some Dodd-Frank provisions, including the Volcker Rule as well as resource extraction disclosure, credit risk retention and executive compensation matters, have come to fruition despite little or no action before White's tenure began.
And a July 2016 report from Davis Polk & Wardwell LLP, on the law's sixth anniversary, showed the SEC roughly even with banking regulators in finishing Dodd-Frank mandates.
Merkley, though, wasn't holding back.
“Our next SEC chair must be a proven reformer, not another defender of Wall Street who will resist disclosure and accountability,” he said.
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