SEC Nominee Made $1.21M as Columbia Professor, Consultant

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By Andrew Ramonas

The nominee for a Democratic seat on the SEC pulled in $1.21 million in about 18 months as a consultant and a Columbia Law School professor, new financial disclosures showed.

Robert Jackson, whom President Donald Trump nominated to the Securities and Exchange Commission earlier in September, earned about $685,000 from Columbia and $526,000 from his RJJJR LLC consulting firm between January 2016 and mid-2017, according to the ethics filing Bloomberg BNA obtained Sept. 19.Jackson is director of the Program on Corporate Law and Policy at Columbia, where he joined the faculty in 2010, the document said. He also has served as president and principal consultant of RJJJR since 2016.

The paperwork showed Jackson was an expert witness in litigation involving nutrition company Herbalife Ltd. and drug store chain Duane Reade Inc., among others. The filing didn’t state whether that work was done for RJJJR, which the document said Jackson uses to “provide occasional consulting services.”

The U.S. Office of Government Ethics requires executive branch nominees to report their income for the preceding and current years. Jackson signed his disclosure paperwork in June.

At Columbia, Jackson researches the leakage of material non-public information when activist hedge funds get on corporate boards, and how some investors can receive advantages over others through the SEC’s system for distributing market-moving information in securities filings, according to his biography. He also helped lead a group of legal academics who petitioned the commission to require companies to disclose their political spending.

Comparing SEC Nominees

Jackson is awaiting confirmation in the Senate along with think-tank scholar Hester Peirce, who was nominated for a Republican seat on the commission in July. He made about $1 million more over roughly the same period of time than Peirce, a senior research fellow and director of the financial markets working group at George Mason University’s Mercatus Center. Peirce earned about $247,000 from January 2016 to mid-2017, according to her financial disclosure paperwork.

Their incomes are dwarfed by the earnings of former Wall Street lawyer Jay Clayton before he became SEC chairman in May. He reported making $7.62 million in about a year as a partner at Sullivan & Cromwell LLP.

Clayton left the law firm prior to joining the agency. Peirce said in a letter to the SEC’s ethics counsel that she will step down from Mercatus if she’s appointed. Jackson, however, won’t abandon academia even if he gets a seat on the commission.

Jackson said in a letter to the SEC’s ethics counsel he will resign from Columbia and accept a tenured position at New York University School of Law if he’s confirmed and will go on leave immediately.

“Unfortunately, Columbia University rules are strict on the duration of unpaid government-service leaves and Rob wanted to honor government ethics recommendations and the advice of counsel and commit to a period of service that exceeds our University service leave limits,” Columbia Law School Dean Gillian Lester told her colleagues in a letter obtained by Bloomberg BNA. “This factor ultimately proved decisive.”

Jackson’s Other Income

Jackson also will continue to have a financial interest in MDEV LLC, his patent holding company. He has patents for a “system and method for machine learning extraction of free-form textual rules and provisions from legal documents” and “systems and methods for extracting table data from text documents using machine learning,” according to his financial disclosure paperwork. The value of the intellectual property wasn’t “readily ascertainable,” the filing said.

He reported income of $3,000 from a French restaurant in New York from January 2016 to mid-2017, as well. The eatery, 24 5th Avenue LLC, does business as Claudette, according to New York City government records.

Jackson didn’t respond to requests for comment.

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

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

For More Information

To view Jackson's ethics paperwork, visit http://src.bna.com/sFy and http://src.bna.com/sGb.

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