Thursday, January 5, 2017


Wall Street lawyer to head Securities and Exchange Commission

Wall Street
lawyer to head Securities and Exchange Commission

By Tom Hall 

5 January 2017
Yesterday, Donald Trump selected Jay Clayton, a
top lawyer advising Wall Street firms, to head the Securities and Exchange
Commission (SEC), the chief regulatory agency of Wall Street. The pick is yet
another indication of his incoming administration’s agenda of deregulation and
the promotion of unbridled profiteering by American finance.
Clayton is a partner at the prestigious Sullivan
and Cromwell law firm, where he has provided legal advice to Wall Street banks
such as Barclays Capital, Goldman Sachs, Ally Financial and Bear Stearns. The
latter’s collapse was a catalyst for the 2008 financial crash. His expertise,
according to the firm’s web site, is in areas such as “public and private
mergers and acquisitions transactions, capital markets offerings, regulatory
and enforcement proceedings, and other matters where multidisciplinary advice
and experience is valued.” The firm states that Clayton “also advises several
high-net-worth families regarding their public and private investments.”
Clayton was involved in the 2014 initial public
offering of Chinese internet firm Alibaba, the most lucrative IPO in history.
He worked on deals by Barclays and JP Morgan Chase in the aftermath of the
financial crisis to acquire the assets of collapsed investment banks Lehman
Brothers and Bear Stearns. Sullivan and Cromwell also represented JP Morgan
Chase in its settlement with the Justice Department in 2013 over its fraudulent
sale of toxic mortgage-backed securities in the leadup to the financial crisis.
The bank paid $13 billion in exchange for the equivalent of a general amnesty
for its illegal activities.
Clayton’s wife works as a private wealth advisor
for Goldman Sachs, underscoring Clayton’s close personal relationships with the
industry he will now be tasked with regulating. Carl Icahn, the billionaire
corporate raider and close Trump ally, interviewed Clayton as part of the
vetting process, according to Reuters. Icahn was recently appointed to the
informal post of Special Advisor to the President on Regulatory Reform, and,
like Trump himself, stands to benefit directly from the deregulation polices of
the new administration.
“Clayton will play an important role in
unleashing the job-creating power of our economy by encouraging investment in
American companies while providing strong oversight of Wall Street and related
industries,” the Trump transition team wrote in its announcement of the pick.
“We need to undo many regulations which have stifled investment in American
businesses, and restore oversight of the financial industry in a way that does
not harm American workers,” the statement quoted Trump as saying.
The real significance of the pick, however, was
not lost on the corporate media. The Wall Street Journal called the appointment “a 180” from
even the Obama administration’s fig leaf “oversight” of the financial industry.
The appointment, the paper wrote, “signals Republicans prefer an SEC chairman
who is attuned to the needs of Wall Street firms that grease the markets where
companies go to raise capital.” It cited in particular a report Clayton
authored in 2011 attacking what he perceived as the Obama administration’s
“zealous” enforcement of laws against bribery of foreign officials by American

Trump appoints Reagan-era advocate of
economic nationalism as US Trade Representative

On Tuesday, Trump announced that Robert
Lighthizer is his appointee for United States Trade Representative (USTR), a
clear sign of the trade war policies his administration intends to pursue. The
position is responsible for negotiating trade deals with other countries and
represents the United States in the World Trade Organization (WTO).
A former deputy trade official in the Reagan
administration, Lighthizer has long experience litigating on behalf of American
corporations against foreign competitors. He is currently a partner at the
Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher and Flom law firm. “For many years, Lighthizer
has represented US steel companies, America’s most trade-litigious industry,
filing dozens of antidumping and countervailing duty petitions to keep foreign
steel out of the United States,” the ultra-conservative Cato Institute noted.
Lighthizer is an outspoken protectionist,
described by his colleagues as an opponent of the WTO. In 2008, he penned an
op-ed in the Washington Post attacking “free trade” for “[helping]
China become a superpower” and forcing American corporations to “bow to the
whims of anti-American bureaucrats at the World Trade Organization. [Proponents
of free trade] oppose any trade limitations, even if we must depend on foreign
countries to feed ourselves or equip our military,” he wrote. China has been
the chief target of US accusations of steel dumping, and Trump has publicly
threatened to label China a “currency manipulator” and impose tariffs of up to 45
percent on Chinese exports.
Lighthizer’s appointment has been widely
acknowledged in the press as an indication of the Trump administration’s
intention to pursue protectionist and trade war policies, chiefly directed
against China. The Washington Post ran a headline on its web site reading
“Trump is bringing in the big guns to roll back free trade,” while the New
York Times
that the appointment was “the latest sign that Mr. Trump intends to fulfill his
campaign promise to get tough with China, Mexico and other trading partners.”
Many figures within the Democratic Party and the
trade unions, which have long scapegoated foreign workers for job losses in the
United States, issued supportive statements. Senator Elizabeth Warren, one of
the party’s leading “progressive” spokespersons, said in a statement: “We need
to dramatically reorient our trade policy so it helps working families, not
giant multinational corporations. I plan to ask Mr. Lighthizer whether he
shares that goal and has a plan for achieving it.”
AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka held a joint
press conference with several Democratic lawmakers on Tuesday calling on the
Trump administration to re-negotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement.
“We wanted him to know that we’ll work with him on doing that,” Trumka told
reporters. “I don’t think he has enough Republican support to do it, and
rewriting the rules of trade is a necessary first step in righting the economy
for working people.”

Trump’s Secretary of State pick set to
receive $180 million severance deal with Exxon-Mobil

Rex Tillerson, the former CEO and chairman of
ExxonMobil, will receive a $180 million payout from his former employer if he
is confirmed as Donald Trump’s Secretary of State.
The deal, structured to fulfill government
conflict of interest requirements, will involve a one-time payment by the
company to an “independent” trust for the value of over two million deferred
shares of ExxonMobil that Tillerson was set to receive as part of his
retirement package. Tillerson will receive payments from the trust at the same
10-year schedule as before. Under the arrangement, Tillerson will be able to
keep almost the full value of the plan, minus only $7 million.
Tillerson made an estimated $24.3 million last
year at ExxonMobil, making him the 29th highest-paid CEO in America, in spite
of a collapse in profits at the world’s largest oil company.

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