Former Senior SEC Attorneys Offer Insight on Chair Clayton’s Priorities and the Current Enforcement Climate (Part One of Two)

Under former Chair Mary Jo White’s “broken windows” approach to enforcement, the SEC pursued minor infractions in an effort to prevent more serious misconduct. Although some have expressed hope that the Commission will become more pragmatic under Chair Jay Clayton, particularly in light of President Trump’s pro-business rhetoric, it remains difficult for fund managers to obtain perspective into the inner workings of the SEC and its enforcement agenda. A recent program hosted by Brian T. Davis and Dimitri G. Mastrocola, partners at international recruiting firm Major, Lindsey & Africa (MLA), provided fund managers with that valuable insight into the SEC, explaining the shift in tone under Clayton and offering perspectives on the regulator’s potential agendas. Moderated by Simpson Thacher partner Olga Gutman, the program featured partners David W. Blass, former Chief Counsel and Associate Director in the SEC Division of Trading and Markets, and Michael J. Osnato, Jr., former Chief of the Complex Financial Instruments Unit of the SEC Division of Enforcement. This two-part series summarizes the panel’s insights. This first article discusses the “zero-tolerance” approach under White, the direction Clayton intends to take and the SEC’s enforcement agenda. The second article will explore the SEC’s regulatory agenda, as well as the examination and enforcement referral process. For more from Simpson Thacher, see “Structuring Private Funds to Avoid ERISA While Accommodating Benefit Plan Investors”: Part One (Feb. 5, 2015); and Part Two (Feb. 12, 2015). For coverage of prior programs hosted by MLA, see “Client Consent and Other Issues Requiring Careful Consideration by Fund Managers Involved in M&A Transactions” (May 18, 2017); and “Former Prosecutors Address Trends in Cybersecurity for Alternative Asset Managers, Diligence When Acquiring a Company and Breach Response Considerations” (Oct. 6, 2016).

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