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Trump names lawyer Clayton as SEC chief

AP file photo

This June 19, 2015, photo shows the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission building in Washington.

The Associated Press WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. President-elect Donald Trump on Wednesday chose a Wall Street attorney with experience in corporate mergers and public stock launches as his nominee to head the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Trump announced his nomination of Jay Clayton, a partner in the law firm Sullivan and Cromwell, as chairman of the independent agency that oversees Wall Street and the financial markets. If confirmed by the Senate, his responsibilities will include enforcing the scores of rules already written by the agency under the 2010 law that reshaped financial regulation after the 2008-09 crisis.

The law, known as Dodd-Frank, has long been scorned by Republicans and is high on Trump’s target list.

Clayton has worked on many of the securities deals that the SEC regulates and has represented Wall Street powerhouses including Goldman Sachs and Barclays.

He is the latest Trump choice with Wall Street connections. His nominee for Treasury secretary, Steven Mnuchin, is a former Goldman executive. Trump also has tapped Gary Cohn, until recently Goldman’s president, to be his top economic adviser, and billionaire investor Wilbur Ross to head the Commerce Department.

Clayton would succeed Mary Jo White, a former federal prosecutor who also had worked as a corporate attorney before being named SEC chair by President Barack Obama.

Clayton played a legal role in a raft of major deals. Some of the biggest came in the panicky days of 2008: He represented Goldman in billionaire Warren Buffett’s $5 billion investment in the Wall Street bank, and the teetering Bear Stearns in its rescue sale to JPMorgan Chase. He worked on a multitude of deals bringing companies public, notably the 2014 U.S. stock market debut of Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba — the biggest IPO ever.

In announcing the appointment, Trump’s transition team said Clayton will encourage investment, “while providing strong oversight of Wall Street and related industries.”

“Robust accountability will be a hallmark of his tenure atop the SEC, and the financial security of the American people will be his top priority,” the statement said.

Choice sparks skepticism

But some key Democrats were unimpressed with the choice of Clayton.

“It’s hard to see how an attorney who’s 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 of Ohio, the senior Democrat on the Senate Banking Committee. The committee, with a Republican majority, will conduct Clayton’s confirmation hearing.

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