On May 6, 2021, new SEC Chair Gary Gensler made his debut, giving testimony to the House Financial Services Committee. Although Mr. Gensler is not new to regulatory leadership – he was head of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) – and as such, his style is certainly not new to capital markets participants, the testimony was nonetheless very enlightening of the mindset of the new SEC regime. The purpose of the testimony was particularly related to the market volatility in January, including GameStop and AMC, and reactions to that trading frenzy including Robinhood’s temporary trading restrictions, but over four hours, touched on much more.
From thirty thousand feet, Gensler attributes the January volatility to an intersection of finance and technology. On a more granular level, he highlights: (i) gamification and user experience; (ii) payment for order flow; (iii) equity market structure; (iv) short selling and market transparency; (v) social media; (vi) market plumbing – i.e., clearance and settlement; and
In March, SEC Chairman Jay Clayton and Brett Redfearn, Director of the Division of Trading and Markets, gave a speech to the Gabelli School of Business at Fordham University regarding the U.S. equity market structure, including plans for future reform. Chair Clayton begins his remarks by praising the Treasury Department’s four core principles reports. In particular, the Treasury Department has issued four reports in response to an executive order dated February 3, 2017 requiring it to identify laws, treaties, regulations, guidance, reporting and record-keeping requirements, and other government policies that promote or inhibit federal regulation of the U.S. financial system.
The four reports include thorough discussions and frame the issues on: (i) Banks and Credit Unions; (ii) Capital Markets (see my blog HERE); (iii) Asset Management and Insurance; and (iv) Nonbank Financials, Fintech and Innovation (see my blog HERE).
The executive order dated February 3, 2017 directed the Treasury Department to issue reports with the following objectives:
On June 5, 2014, Mary Jo White gave a speech at a conference on the topic of the structure of equity markets, the entire text of which is available on sec. gov. The speech was very high-level and broad-based with few specific initiative announcements. However, it does provide some insight into the direction of planned market structure initiatives and rule releases. This blog is a summary of her speech.
Ms. White began her speech by acknowledging that the SEC agrees with the basic premise that “investors and public companies benefit greatly from robust and resilient equity markets.”
Ms. White announced that she is recommending additional measures to “further promote market stability and fairness, enhance market transparency and disclosures, and build more effective markets for smaller companies.” In addition, she will request that the SEC create a new Market Structure Advisory Committee of experts to review specific initiatives and rule proposals.
Current Market Structure
As noted in Ms. White’s speech, today’s