On Wednesday, President-elect Donald Trump announced that he will nominate Walter J. "Jay" Clayton as chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), saying that Clayton would "ensure our financial institutions can thrive and create jobs while playing by the rules at the same time." Trump suggested that Clayton would shift the SEC away from robust financial regulation and enforcement. Clayton is a partner at Wall Street law firm Sullivan & Cromwell LLC, the go-to legal advisers for Goldman Sachs for more than a century, and he helped negotiate major deals for Goldman, Chinese internet powerhouse Alibaba, and large banks on both the buying and selling side of the financial meltdown of 2008.
In 2009, Sullivan & Cromwell colleague H. Rodgin Cohen withdrew his name from consideration for a senior Treasury Department position amid criticism of his deep involvement in the banking deals hammered out during the financial crisis, The New York Times notes, and while Clayton's nomination was praised by trade lawyers, he had his skeptics, too. "It's hard to see how an attorney who spent his career helping Wall Street beat the rap will keep President-elect Trump's promise to stop big banks and hedge funds from 'getting away with murder,'" said Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio). "I look forward to hearing how Mr. Clayton will protect retirees and savers from being exploited, demand real accountability from financial institutions the SEC oversees and work to prevent another financial crisis."