SEC Member Scolds Agency Panel, Rips ‘Soapbox for Demagoguery’

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By Andrew Ramonas

SEC Commissioner Michael Piwowar rebuked an agency advisory panel Dec. 7, saying it shouldn’t be “a Hyde Park soapbox for demagoguery and tub-thumping” or an “inquisitorial Star Chamber.”

The Republican’s remarks at a Securities and Exchange Commission Investor Advisory Committee meeting appeared to come in response to how a panel member questioned speakers invited for a discussion on blockchain and other distributed ledger technology in October. Panel member Damon Silvers, the director of policy and special counsel for the AFL-CIO, frequently cut off a Yale Law School researcher and a blockchain company founder during heated exchanges at the gathering.

Committee members should engage in “civil, respectable discussion and debate” with presenters, Piwowar said, without naming Silvers. Speakers asked to attend panel meetings come in “good faith” on “their own dime and on their own time,” he said.

“It pains me to have to remind the committee membership that our guests have not always been treated in the manner they deserve,” said Piwowar, a former acting SEC chairman. “Guests of the commission and the committee are owed our utmost respect.”

Response

Silvers defended his questioning of associate research scholar Nancy Liao about investment contracts in the digital currency space. Liao is the executive director of the Yale Law School Center for the Study of Corporate Law.

Liao didn’t respond to email and phone requests for comment.

Anne Sheehan, the committee’s chairman, said at the Dec. 7 meeting the panel’s members appreciate the testimony they receive from the speakers invited to their discussions.

“I think everyone agrees they deserve our respect,” said Sheehan, director of corporate governance at the California State Teachers’ Retirement System.

To contact the reporter on this story: Andrew Ramonas in Washington at aramonas@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Phyllis Diamond at pdiamond@bloomberglaw.com

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