SEC Nominations Stalled After U.S. Senate Panel Suspends Vote

  • Banking Committee delays action on Peirce and Fairfax
  • Regulator has lacked a full slate of members since December

A U.S. Senate panel delayed action on two nominees for the Securities and Exchange Commission, adding to uncertainty over when the regulator will have a full slate of members.

Senate Banking Committee Chairman Richard Shelby suspended a vote Thursday on several nominees for federal agencies after Democratic lawmakers said they opposed the SEC candidates. Senators Charles Schumer and Robert Menendez were among Democrats who said they were against Hester Peirce and Lisa Fairfax joining the SEC, due to concerns that the nominees wouldn’t push for new disclosure requirements on corporations’ political spending.

The delay means the SEC is no closer to having a full panel of officials who get a say on rules for public companies and whether to punish individuals and corporations for violations of securities laws. The regulator hasn’t had a complete roster of commissioners in six months and has been down to three members since December.

Vote Confusion

Shelby had called for a single vote Thursday on a block of nominees to join agencies including the Treasury Department, the U.S. Mint, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. and the SEC. While Democrats voted in favor of the broader group, they said they wanted to be noted as opposing the SEC nominees. That prompted Shelby to suspend action, with the Alabama Republican saying “there is a little confusion here.”

Last year, President Barack Obama nominated the Peirce, a senior research fellow at George Mason University, and Fairfax, a George Washington University law professor. Peirce is a Republican, while Fairfax is a Democrat.

The issue that caused upheaval Thursday for the Senate Banking Committee is whether public corporations should be forced to disclose to their investors how much they spend on political contributions. While the Republican-led Congress approved legislation last year that restricts the SEC from passing a rule that would boost disclosure, Democrats continue to press on the topic.