Yesterday, President Obama announced his intent to nominate Lisa Fairfax and Hester Peirce as Commissioners of the SEC. If confirmed, Fairfax and Peirce will fill the Democrat and Republican seats on the Commission that are being vacated by Commissioners Luis Aguilar and Daniel Gallagher, respectively. Gallagher departed the Commission on October 2, 2016, and Aguilar has stayed on awaiting the confirmation of his successor.
Fairfax is currently a law professor at the George Washington University Law School. Prior to entering academia in 2000, Fairfax was an associate at the law firm Ropes & Gray LLP. Peirce is a Senior Research Fellow at the Financial Markets Working Group at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University. Previously, Peirce served on the staff of the Senate Banking Committee, and also as a staff attorney with the SEC from 2000 to 2008.
A NYT DealBook article on the nominations stated that the selection of Fairfax "is the latest sign of the influence of the Democratic Party’s liberal wing in shaping Mr. Obama’s selections for key financial posts." According to numerous reports, President Obama initially intended to nominate Covington & Burling partner Keir Gumbs, but was met with opposition from activist groups aligned with Senator Elizabeth Warren that objected to Gumbs possibly being a "corporate-friendly ally" for SEC Chair Mary Jo White.
Peirce is the editor and a contributor to the 2012 book, Dodd-Frank: What It Does and Why It’s Flawed. The book concludes that Dodd-Frank "not only fails to achieve many of its stated goals, it also creates dangerous regulatory pathologies that could lay the groundwork for the next crisis." Peirce also has been critical of FINRA, writing in a January 2015 research paper that "although commonly perceived to be a self-regulator, FINRA is not accountable to the industry in the way a self-regulator would be. Nor is it accountable to the public, Congress, the president, or the courts."
On TheCorporateCounsel.net, Broc Romanek observed today that it is exciting to see President Obama nominate two women to the Commission as that means that the five-person Commission will soon be 80% female. Romanek says that by his count,
there have been 97 Commissioners since the SEC was created in 1934. Of those there have been 12 women: Roberta Karmel; Barbara Thomas; Aulana Peters; Mary Schapiro (counted twice); Laura Unger; Cynthia Glassman; Annette Nazareth; Kathleen Casey; Elisse Walter; Mary Jo White and Kara Stein. Here’s the SEC’s list of Commissioners if you want to check my math. Overall, the percentage of women that have served on the Commission is about 12% – with the past few decades running at about a 20% rate.