Wall Street Bailout Attorney Confirmed to Lead SEC in Textbook Example of Conflict of Interest

Statement on Confirmation of Jay Clayton, Who Will be Forced to Recuse Himself from Significant Portions of His New Job Chairing the SEC


WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, following a vote in the U.S. Senate to confirm Wall Street mega-lawyer Jay Clayton, President Donald Trump’s nominee to chair the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), Allied Progress released the following statement:

“Today the U.S. Senate voted to let a Wall Street fox guard the financial hen house with their approval of bailout attorney Jay Clayton to chair the SEC. Mr. Clayton has a history of putting the interests of his Wall Street clients before those of average Americans. As one of Wall Street’s go-to mega-lawyers, Mr. Clayton was a hired gun for Goldman Sachs and other multinational companies that fought corporate investigations and dodged enforcement actions from regulators, including the SEC–the very agency he will now helm,” said Karl Frisch, executive director of Allied Progress.

He continued, “Mr. Clayton was confirmed despite his nutty views on a host of issues. There is perhaps no better example of this than his support for weakening the law prohibiting corporations from bribing foreign governments. Mr. Clayton’s confirmation will add yet another Wall Street yes-man to President Trump’s elite assortment of millionaire and billionaire appointees tasked with reining in the very Wall Street swamp from which they rose to power.”

In the weeks before Trump’s inauguration, Allied Progress launched Trump Transparency Project, an initiative aimed at holding the incoming administration accountable for its economic appointments and policies that betray America’s middle class. You can read the project’s fifteen-page research dossier on Clayton here.


  • Clayton is a partner at a law firm “more closely associated with Wall Street than perhaps any other.” Jay Clayton is President Donald Trump’s nominee for Chairman of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. A partner at Sullivan & Cromwell, a law firm “more closely associated with Wall Street than perhaps any other,” Clayton has built his career representing major multinational companies like Bear Stearns, Lehman Brothers, and Goldman Sachs, to name a few.
  • Clayton’s conflicts of interest are vast–he will have to recuse himself from a significant portion of the job he’s seeking. If confirmed, Clayton will be required to recuse himself “for one year from voting on any particular matter if a firm or individual is being represented by” his law firm, and “for a year from working on matters that involve clients he represented in the past year.” He also will be “recused indefinitely if a deal he previously worked on comes up during SEC litigation.” Based on an analysis of “recent” and “selected” Sullivan & Cromwell clients, it is estimated that Clayton will need to recuse himself from cases involving nearly one-third of the institutions on the Financial Stability Board’s list of “global systemically important banks.” But, that number could be much larger as there is no way of determining the identities of all of Clayton’s clients and the scope of his representation of those clients, without full disclosure by him.
  • Clayton has been involved in high-profile, controversial deals that wiped out shareholder wealth. In addition to being involved in controversial deals that wiped out shareholder wealth, he has been associated with others that set off “global market turmoil and roiled the financial world.”
  • Clayton wants to make it easier for corporations to bribe foreign governments. During the 2008 financial crisis, Clayton “advocated for less zealous enforcement of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act” (FCPA), which “prohibits the payment of bribes to foreign officials to assist in obtaining or retaining business.” He even oversaw a report that attacked the Obama administration for enforcing the law, claiming its application was “‘causing lasting harm to the competitiveness of U.S.-regulated companies.’” To hear him tell it, American businesses cannot compete if they are not bribing foreign governments. It is difficult to see how he could possibly be trusted to enforce these and other important laws if he considers them mere obstacles around which businesses must navigate.
  • Clayton represents an extension of the Trump administration’s troubling pattern of nominating individuals with Russian ties. His law firm, Sullivan & Cromwell, has advised numerous entities including companies doing business with Russian oligarchs, and the Russian government, on financial and oil and gas projects. It also represented Deutsche Bank on a consent order related to the bank’s role in a $10 billion “Russian money laundering scheme.” If that scandal-plagued financial institution sounds familiar, it should: The Trump Organization has enormous debt “with Deutsche Bank, which loaned it more than $364 million in recent years and more than $3 billion since the 1990s.”

To speak with Karl Frisch about Clayton’s confirmation, please contact Mike Czin at 919-649-3741 or tucker@alliedprogress.org.

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Allied Progress is a nationwide, progressive advocacy organization that uses hard-hitting research and creative campaigns to hold Wall Street and powerful special interests accountable. Since launching in 2015, the organization has led high-profile campaigns on several issues including reforming the payday lending industry and exposing the those working to cripple the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB).



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