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Senate Approves New SEC Commissioners, Assistant Secretary of Labor

After more than two years, the SEC will have all five commissioner seats filled.

Last night the Senate approved the White House’s nominees for the two commissioner seats at the Securities and Exchange Commission, and it confirmed Preston Rutledge as the new assistant secretary of labor for the Department of Labor’s Employee Benefits Security Administration. That role has been vacant since Phyllis Borzi, who President Obama appointed in 2009, left.

Hester Peirce, senior research fellow at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University, will fill the Republican commissioner seat at the SEC, while Robert Jackson Jr., a professor and the director of the Program on Corporate Law and Policy at Columbia Law School, will fill the Democratic seat.

“We are pleased that the Commission will now, after more than two years, have a full complement of five commissioners,” said Karen Barr, president and CEO of the Investment Adviser Association. “We look forward to working with Chairman Clayton and all of the commissioners on regulatory and investor protection initiatives that have a critical impact on investors, the markets and the U.S. economy.” 

The confirmation of the two was held up by Senator Tammy Baldwin, who had questions about how they’d handle certain issues at the SEC, such as hedge fund disclosures and the economic impact of stock buybacks.

In October, the two faced questions from the U.S. Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs. Many of the questions focused on why the SEC had not written rules mandated by the Dodd–Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act. The committee and nominees also spoke about executive compensation clawbacks, company disclosures and cybersecurity, as well as FINRA, the self-regulatory organization overseen by the SEC.

Rutledge will now fill the role at the DOL once held by Phyllis Borzi, who was instrumental in crafting the fiduciary rule. One of Rutledge’s top responsibilities would be the implementation of, and any possible changes to, the DOL’s fiduciary rule, part of which went into effect on June 9. The second implementation phase has been delayed until July 2019.

Rutledge has served in his current role at the Senate Finance Committee under Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) since 2011. His responsibilities included employee benefits, retirement issues, tax-exempt organizations, health tax issues and the tax provisions of the Affordable Care Act.

Prior to that, he was senior tax law specialist in the Tax Exempt and Government Entities division of the Internal Revenue Service and senior technical reviewer in the Qualified Pension Plans Branch of the IRS Office of Chief Counsel.

“We are excited about the prospect and are looking forward to working with Preston to develop and put in place policies which will help to expand access to workplace retirement plans, increase retirement savings and boost the utilization of lifetime income products,” said Lee Covington, senior vice president and general counsel at the Insured Retirement Institute.

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