Senate Set to Consider President Obama’s SEC Nominees
On March 15, and in the face of mounting criticism on the backlog of presidential nominees awaiting confirmation, the Senate Banking Committee finally held a confirmation hearing on President Obama’s nominees to the SEC, Democrat Lisa Fairfax and Republican Hester Pierce.
Fairfax and Pierce were nominated last October after two commissioners had stepped down, and if confirmed, would restore the SEC’s commission to five members. Fairfax teaches securities law at George Washington University, and has worked in academia for much of the past 15 years. Pierce is a senior research fellow at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University, and has published a book titled “Dodd-Frank: What It Does and Why It’s Flawed.”
At the confirmation hearing (video available here), the nominees faced sharp questions from senators about how their academic history and research would impact their priorities as members of the top U.S. markets regulator (for example, Pierce has previously criticized portions of Dodd-Frank and related regulations). The pointed questioning highlighted the intense political scrutiny financial regulators continue to face eight years after the financial crisis. Following the hearing, top Senate Democrats have voiced opposition to the nominees over whether they support requiring public companies to disclose political spending, an issue on which we have previously reported. The SEC’s head, Mary Jo White, has not committed to getting the commission to adopt a political spending disclosure rule. Fairfax and Peirce said the SEC appears to be prevented from approving such a rule by the Republican amendment to last year’s spending bill. Fairfax said she would consider the various arguments on the issue if confirmed. This new opposition to the nominees from top Democrats may serve to further stall their confirmations.