Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) Chairman Jay Clayton took office in the middle of 2017, but 2018 feels like the year he finally started to put his own stamp on the agency.
Clayton, the hand-picked choice of Republican President Donald J. Trump, has made a series of pro-business moves aimed at loosening the reins on registered companies, as would be expected from the Dealmaker in Chief’s administration. The SEC has made news this year on both big-picture themes such as reporting requirements and more esoteric subjects like cryptocurrencies.
Here are some of the major stories involving the SEC from 2018, many of which made significant waves in corporate boardrooms.
- In a decision couched as an effort to make the public markets more attractive to smaller companies, a change in the definition of what constitutes a “smaller reporting company” eased the reporting requirements on nearly one thousand publicly registered companies.
- Clayton continued his campaign aimed at protecting retail investors by pushing Congress for more money to fund major enforcement initiatives.
- During proxy season, the SEC endorsed issuers’ refusals to put some shareholder proposals up for a vote, a win for management over activist investors.
- In one of the more curious moves of his tenure, Clayton called for opening up private companies to Main Street investors.
- A Supreme Court ruling forced a massive do-over by the SEC on more than a hundred enforcement cases.
- Long-dormant proposals for rules on securities-based swaps got new life after sitting on the shelf for four years, prompting speculation from one SEC commissioner that the Trump administration was attempting an end run around investor safeguards in the 2010 Dodd-Frank legislation.
- A handful of SEC commissioners appear open to taking steps to legitimize cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin; however, comments from Clayton muddied the waters on the regulatory future for crypto.
- Like all things Elon Musk, the Tesla CEO’s battle with the SEC made headlines throughout the year.
- In a year replete with significant data breaches, the SEC began to flex its muscle on cyber preparedness.
- Public companies transitioned to new revenue recognition accounting standards, and the SEC patiently, but actively, counseled early adopters on conforming with these rules.
- The SEC sought to require brokers to put their clients first, and issued a proposal in May, which it aims to push toward the finish line in 2019.
Next week we will take a look at SEC initiatives and anticipated developments to watch for as we enter 2019.