December 6, 2016 / 9:45 PM / a year ago

SEC hit with wave of departures ahead of Trump transition

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The top official at the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission tasked with reviewing corporate financial filings is leaving the agency, the SEC said on Tuesday, its latest resignation since the presidential election in November.

The SEC said Keith Higgins, head of the Division of Corporation Finance, plans to leave the agency in early January.

Turnover of high-ranking agency officials after a Presidential election is common. The SEC chairman, who is presidentially appointed, is responsible for hiring division directors.

President-elect Donald Trump has yet to announce who he plans to nominate for SEC Chair. Around Washington, some have wondered whether former SEC Commissioner Paul Atkins, who is helping oversee the transition for financial regulation, could be tapped.

Other names that have floated around include securities attorney Ralph Ferrara and former SEC Commissioner Dan Gallagher. On Tuesday, NBC also reported that former U.S. Attorney Debra Wong Yang could be a contender.

Atkins has also been mentioned as a possible nominee for vice chairman of the Federal Reserve.

Higgins, who has worked at the SEC since June 2013, was responsible for overseeing the adoption of many rules required by the 2012 Jumpstart Our Business Startups (JOBS) Act, a law that loosened securities rules to help small companies raise capital.

He was also tasked with overseeing the “disclosure effectiveness” project designed to streamline corporate filings to make them more useful to investors. That project has been cheered by groups like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, but panned by progressives such as Massachusetts Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren, who fear it will result in less disclosure to investors.

Higgins is now the sixth top SEC official to announce he is departing since Trump won the election.

In November, SEC Chair Mary Jo White said she plans to leave at the end of the Obama administration in January.

Others who have said they plan to depart include Trading and Markets Division Director Stephen Luparello, Chief Economist Mark Flannery, Chief Litigation Counsel Matthew Solomon and Chief Accountant James Schnurr, who is still recovering from a serious bicycle accident in April.

SEC Enforcement Director Andrew Ceresney, who has worked alongside White for years in both private practice and at the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Manhattan, declined to say when he plans to depart when asked by Reuters on the sidelines of a conference on Tuesday.

Reporting by Sarah N. Lynch; Editing by David Gregorio

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