VIDEO: Menendez Says No to ‘Wall Street First’ Policy; No to SEC Nominee

VIDEO: Menendez Says No to ‘Wall Street First’ Policy; No to SEC Nominee

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Bob Menendez, senior member of the Senate Banking and Finance Committees, said today he would not support the confirmation of Jay Clayton as Chair of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, noting that his experience, background, and refusal to answer questions make clear Clayton is “better suited to continue representing Wall Street rather than to working on behalf of the American people.”

In remarks on the Senate floor before the vote on Clayton’s confirmation, Menendez outlined three main reasons for his opposition:   


“There are three reasons why I’m concerned that an SEC led by Mr. Clayton would be an SEC that bends the rules for corporations and ignores the needs of hard-working Americans.  First is Mr. Clayton’s singular focus on corporate bottom lines. When asked to layout his vision for the agency, Mr. Clayton offered no path to preventing another financial crisis.  He provided no commitment to strengthening the agency’s enforcement abilities.  And he callously overlooked investor protections.


“Mr. Clayton failed to give an iota of support to anything other than boosting corporate bottom lines.  He spoke exclusively about reducing compliance and registration costs for companies.  That’s all fine – but not at the expense of critical investor protections and of healthy, stable and fair markets for the economy at large.


“Without strong protections and disclosures, we will sacrifice investor confidence. And when we sacrifice investor confidence, less capital will flow through our markets. And when less capital flows through markets, businesses will struggle to grow and innovate.  In other words, a stable and fair financial sector is vital to our economy as a whole.


“My second concern involves Mr. Clayton’s potential conflicts of interest. Mr. Clayton has spent his entire career representing big players on Wall Street, before, during, and after the crisis.  His work has undoubtedly produced many conflicts of interest. As a result, Mr. Clayton will be forced to sit out of numerous important decisions integral to the role of SEC Chair. This is a problem, because the SEC currently has just two commissioners. The absence of Mr. Clayton could very well undermine the agency’s ability to prosecute wrongdoing on Wall Street.


“And finally, I was alarmed by Mr. Clayton’s refusal to answer any questions of substance during his confirmation hearing.  When asked if he would implement congressionally-mandated rules, like the provision I wrote into Dodd-Frank requiring corporations to disclose how much money CEOs make in comparison to their employees, Mr. Clayton gave no straight answer.  When asked if he would fairly consider the 1.2 million comments received by the SEC urging that companies disclose their political spending, Mr. Clayton gave no straight answer. 


“And when asked if he would restore the subpoena power of SEC attorneys so that they can initiate investigations, Mr. Clayton showed his true colors.  When it comes to enforcement at the SEC, he said we had to be “mindful that even the commencement of an investigation can have significant adverse impacts” on public companies.  So instead of explaining his vision of the SEC’s role as a cop on the beat, he said the agency should consider a company’s bottom line before investigating potential wrongdoing.


“I can’t help but conclude that Mr. Clayton appears better suited to continue representing Wall Street rather than to working on behalf of the American people.  The president’s nomination of Mr. Clayton is a bow to Wall Street and a cold shoulder to hardworking middle class families.  I will not be voting for his confirmation.”