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Trump to tap Wall Street lawyer Jay Clayton to head SEC

The seal of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission at SEC headquarters in Washington.
The seal of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission at SEC headquarters in Washington. (Andrew Harnik / AP)

President-elect Donald Trump will nominate Wall Street lawyer Jay Clayton to head the Securities and Exchange Commission, according to Sean Spicer, a spokesman for Trump's transition team.

As chair of the SEC, which polices Wall Street and the financial markets, Clayton would play a key role in Trump's efforts to usher in a period of deregulation, including undoing parts of 2010's financial reform legislation, known as the Dodd-Frank Act.

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If confirmed by the Senate, Clayton would replace Mary Jo White, who announced shortly after the election that she would step down.

White, a former federal prosecutor, is known for a no-nonsense style and beefed up the agency's enforcement efforts over the last three years, pushing for more companies to admit guilt and taking more cases to trial. And during her term, the SEC has been a central player part of the Obama administration's effort to rein in big banks following the 2008 financial crisis and prevent future taxpayer bailouts of the industry. The agency has pushed for more oversight of hedge funds and other asset managers and has established rules that make it more difficult for big banks to make risky bets on the markets.

But Trump is widely expected to roll back some of the banking industry regulations the Obama administration put in place.

Clayton is a partner at Sullivan & Cromwell, a well-known law firm, and has represented some of the biggest names on Wall Street, including Goldman Sachs and Barclays, and helped them weather regulatory scrutiny. He has also helped large companies hold their raise money through an initial public offering, including Alibaba, the Chinese retail giant. But, according to the biography on the Sullivan & Cromwell website, Clayton has not held any government positions and has never served as a prosecutor.

His nomination drew a quick Twitter response from Hillary Clinton's former campaign deputy press secretary, Jesse Ferguson:

"I'm sure Trump campaigned on appointing a Wall Street attorney who represented Goldman Sachs to oversee Wall Street at SEC, right?"

In addition to replacing White, Trump will be able to fill two openings on the five-member SEC commission. Together, the openings should give the Trump administration wide latitude to change the way Wall Street is regulated.

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