The Senate on Tuesday confirmed the nomination of Jay Clayton, a Wall Street lawyer with decades of experience helping companies to weather regulatory scrutiny, to lead the Securities and Exchange Commission.
As chairman of the SEC, Clayton will police many of the same large banks that he has spent decades representing, including Goldman Sachs and Barclays. He also would play a key role in President Trump's efforts to roll back the 2010 financial reform legislation known as the Dodd-Frank Act.
He was approved by the Senate along largely partisan lines, 61 to 37.
Clayton’s nomination continues Trump's track record of nominating Wall Street insiders for high-level positions, despite Trump's criticism of the industry during the presidential campaign.
As a partner at the New York law firm Sullivan & Cromwell, Clayton helped online retailer Alibaba stage the largest initial public offering in history, assisted in the sale of the National Basketball Association's Atlanta Hawks and worked closely with hedge fund tycoons such as Bill Ackman of Pershing Square Capital Management and Paul Tudor Jones.
Clayton, who made more than $7 million last year, is also among six people with ties to Goldman Sachs chosen by Trump to serve in his administration. Clayton's 15-year relationship with the bank includes advising Goldman during some of its most troubled moments. (He is also married to a Goldman Sachs wealth manager.)
Republicans have praised Clayton's financial industry experience, arguing that it makes him well-suited for the position.
"Jay's broad experience and his keen understanding of capital markets and securities regulation will serve all market participants well as the SEC works to ensure that safe, strong securities markets remain a cornerstone of the U.S. economy. I look forward to working with him in his new role, " said Robert Cook, president of Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, the industry's self-regulating organization.
I look forward to confirming Jay Clayton to lead Securities & Exchange Commission, where he will support American biz & boost job creation.
— Leader McConnell (@SenateMajLdr) May 2, 2017
During his confirmation hearing, Clayton sought to assure lawmakers that he could be tough on Wall Street despite his industry connections.
“I have zero tolerance for bad actors,” Clayton said in March.
But he has faced stiff opposition from many Democrats and consumer groups.
“Americans deserve a Chair who will run the SEC on their behalf, not for the benefit of Wall Street banks and big corporations,” Sen. Sherrod Brown of Ohio, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Banking Committee, said on the Senate floor Tuesday.
Jay Clayton embodies the greed that nearly wrecked our economy. We need a SEC chair who'll confront the system—not someone who's part of it.
— Bernie Sanders (@SenSanders) May 2, 2017