Wall Street lawyer Jay Clayton, who defended big banks against regulators during the financial crisis, is President-elect Donald Trump's pick to head the federal agency charged with policing Wall Street.
Clayton, a partner with the New York law firm Sullivan & Cromwell, is Trump's nominee for chair of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). In that role, the Washington Post reports, Clayton "would play a key role in Trump's efforts to usher in a period of deregulation, including undoing parts of 2010's financial reform legislation, known as the Dodd-Frank Act."
"Jay Clayton has spent his career helping big banks weasel out of accountability for robbing millions of Americans of their life savings and crushing our economy."
—Adam Green, Progressive Change Campaign Committee
He is among several of Trump's cabinet nominees with ties to Goldman Sachs, continuing what Bloomberg described as "a surprise coup for financial firms since Trump won the presidency in November." He has also worked on major deals involving Barclays, Bear Stearns, and, according to his Sullivan & Cromwell bio, several "large financial institutions" that have settled with the government on toxic mortgage claims.
Marcus Stanley, policy director for Americans for Financial Reform, told the Post that Clayton's was "not the appropriate background for a top position policing Wall Street." The SEC is responsible for protecting investors, regulating financial markets, and "rooting out financial crime," as CNN puts it.
Others agreed, saying Clayton's appointment was yet another example of Trump failing to follow through on campaign promises.
"Jay Clayton has spent his career helping big banks weasel out of accountability for robbing millions of Americans of their life savings and crushing our economy," said Adam Green, co-founder of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee. "Trump supporters did not vote to let the fox guard the henhouse on Wall Street. This is yet another example of Trump betraying his own voters by turning over our economy to giant corporations and Wall Street at the expense of American working families."
And Dennis Kelleher, president and CEO of Wall Street reform advocacy group Better Markets, declared: "While Mr. Clayton may be an excellent lawyer representing Goldman Sachs and Wall Street's too-big-to-fail banks, America's families need to know that he will represent them as zealously and as effectively. He must lead without fear or favor and he must not bring the failed mindset that 'what's good for Wall Street is good for America,' which the 2008 financial crash proved catastrophically wrong."
"The SEC is supposed to be the cop on the Wall Street beat," Kelleher continued. "When it fails to do its job, the American people pay the price in lost homes, jobs, savings, and so much more. We saw that when the SEC de-regulated Wall Street before the 2008 financial crash and failed to enforce the law afterwards."
Clayton must be confirmed by the U.S. Senate. He would replace Mary Jo White, who has said she will step down as chair when President Barack Obama leaves office later this month. White, a former prosecutor whose background was in enforcement, drew criticism last year from Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) for failing to crack down on corporate political donations. Warren has yet to comment on Clayton's nomination.