During his tenure, Clayton emphasized protecting retail investors and drew praise for tackling complex market issues. The agency also cracked down on cryptocurrency scams, filing numerous cases over the past few years.
But consumer advocates have said some of the SEC policies under his leadership could hurt consumers in the long run, including allowing more companies to raise money without traditional oversight. Critics have noted, in particular, a rule requiring brokers not put their own interests before those of their clients, which they say is too weak.
One of Clayton’s most high-profile targets was Elon Musk, when the SEC sued him as chairman of Tesla for allegedly lying to investors when he tweeted that he had “funding secured” to take Tesla private, in September 2018. The enforcement action resulted in a settlement requiring a $20 million fine against Musk, a separate $20 million from Tesla, two new independent directors added to the board and higher scrutiny of Musk’s public communications.
“I am proud of our collective efforts to advance each part of the SEC’s tripartite mission, always with an eye on the interests of our Main Street investors,” Clayton said.
While he escaped controversy most of his tenure, Clayton was thrust into the spotlight last year when Trump announced his intention to nominate him as the next U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, sparking a battle for control of the office.
Clayton didn’t address his future plans in the statement.
Before the SEC, Clayton, a longtime partner with Sullivan & Cromwell, had never held a government position and had represented some of the biggest names in the financial world, including Goldman Sachs and Bill Ackman of Pershing Square Capital Management.
In a statement, the SEC cited several accomplishments under Clayton’s leadership, including rules that make it easier for businesses to raise capital in public and private markets and improved examination and enforcement programs. During his tenure, the SEC returned about $3.5 billion to harmed investors and paid about $565 million to whistleblowers.
It is unclear whom President-elect Joe Biden could nominate to be the next SEC chair. The nominee would have to be confirmed by the Senate.
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