SEC Chair White: ‘This is an unprecedented period of rulemaking’

By Andy Blocker

Three top officials gathered at SIFMA’s 2015 Annual Meeting to discuss the state of capital markets and how the public and private sectors can work together effectively to strengthen the U.S. economy. Secretary of the Treasury Jacob Lew, SEC Chair Mary Jo White and Commodity Futures Trading Commission Chair Timothy Massad each outlined priorities for their agencies while keeping an eye toward the emerging challenges stemming from technology and global economic headwinds.

Lew offered the broadest assessment of current economic conditions, painting the picture of an economy that is fundamentally sound if not yet reaching its peak potential. “The job numbers we got last Friday were one of a series of reports that show stability,” said Lew. “There are some international headwinds, without which we’d be doing better. We have jobs that go unfilled in the economy because people don’t have the right skills. But we know how to solve that.”

In addition to concerns surrounding China and emerging markets, Lew, White and Massad each spoke at length about cybersecurity, identifying potential attacks as the most significant threats to both capital markets and the larger economy. “There can be no higher priority for both the public and private sector than the cyber threat,” said White. She also cited the importance of the SEC in ensuring that public companies disclose cyber risks properly to investors.

Despite the challenges, Lew emphasized the progress that has been made in the financial sector. “When we look across the economy, the financial sector is probably a step ahead of other sectors on the issue of cybersecurity,” said Lew. He named utilities, transportation and information systems as three other areas where the threat of cyber attacks poses risk for financial markets.

Along with cybersecurity, the most common theme for each official was the need to ensure that policymakers and regulators are responding to the challenges of 2015, not those of 2008. “There’s always a challenge for a regulator to keep up with the markets, with technology and innovation,” said Massad. “That’s a great thing, but it does present a real challenge.”

Lew and White both echoed that sentiment in their remarks. “It’s not a static set of issues,” said White. “It’s important to recognize that this is an unprecedented period of rulemaking for the SEC and for other regulators, as well … We must get it right.”

Andy Blocker
Executive Vice President
Public Policy & Advocacy