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With Mary Jo White Out of the SEC, Is Dodd-Frank Done?

By Casey C. Sullivan, Esq. on November 21, 2016 12:57 PM

Mary Jo White announced last week that she would resign her post as chair of the Securities and Exchange Commission when President Barack Obama leaves the White House in January, despite having three years left on her term. White has been one of the longest serving SEC chairs, overseeing the agency as it implemented the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act and took a more aggressive stance to enforcement.

The changing of the guard at the SEC could mark a new period of deregulation under the Trump administration and an unwinding of the restrictions imposed under Dodd-Frank.

Get Ready for a Lighter Touch

"I am very proud of our three consecutive years of record enforcement actions, dozens of fundamental reforms through our rulemakings that have strengthened investor protections and market stability, and that the job satisfaction of our phenomenal staff has climbed in each of the last three years," White said in a statement announcing her plans to step down.

White's replacement could take a much different approach to enforcement action and federal rulemaking. Trump has picked Paul Atkins to lead the SEC transition. Atkins was a member of the Commission from 2002 to 2008 and has a reputation as a very forgiving regulator, often arguing against corporate fines as a member of the SEC and later referring to the Dodd-Frank Act as a "calamity."

He is "a guy in general who wants to let companies do their thing and not get in the way very much," Capital Alpha Partners financial policy analyst Ian Katz told the Washington Post. "You would see a lighter touch on enforcement and a lighter hand on corporate governance issue broadly."

Shaking Up the SEC and Dismantling Dodd-Frank?

With White stepping down, Trump will be left with three SEC openings to fill. For the past two decades, presidents have allowed the opposition party to pick a representative on the commission. Should Trump not follow that model, he could easily pack the Commission with members who will reflect his views on securities regulation.

What those views are, however, remains to be fully known. Trump has pledged to "dismantle" Dodd-Frank, but has provided little detail about what that means. His campaign team is currently focused on "rescinding or scaling back individual provisions of the law that Republicans find most objectionable," according to the Wall Street Journal.

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