President Barack Obama’s two Securities and Exchange Commission nominees revealed little Thursday in their only congressional appearance before what are expected to be easy and quick confirmations.
Republican Michael Piwowar and Democrat Kara Stein did not state any SEC policy differences and they were not asked any tough questions in testimony before the Senate Banking Committee.
They did tell Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D., Mass,), however, that they agreed with a recent decision by SEC Chairman Mary Jo White on admissions of guilt in SEC cases. White halted the uniform practice of letting accused securities law violators “neither admit nor deny” allegations in settlements. Instead the SEC will seek admissions of guilt in selective cases.
“No admit, no deny was on auto pilot,” said Piwowar.
Warren said demanding admissions of guilt on occasion will show the SEC has some backbone in critical cases.
“Every U.S. attorney and district attorney knows plea bargains will break down if the government is unwilling to go to trial,” she said.
The two nominees are longtime Senate Banking Committee staffers, which certainly contributed to the reluctance of committee members to grill them. Piwowar, an economist, has served on the staffs of ranking committee minority member Mike Crapo (R., Idaho) and one-time ranking member and chairman Richard Shelby (R., Ala.). Stein is on the staff of committee Democrat Jack Reed of Rhode Island.
Piwowar is scheduled to replace Troy Paredes on the commission while Stein would take the place of Elisse Walter.
With the expected confirmation of the two, the five-member commission will this year be composed of a majority of new members. That transition started with the replacement of Chairman Mary Schapiro by Mary Jo White.
Investment Adviser Association Executive Director David Tittsworth has praised both of the nominees.