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Public Statement of SEC Chairman Jay Clayton for FSOC Open Meeting

March 26, 2020

The women and men of the SEC are focused on two overriding issues:  (1) we are facing a national challenge — an unprecedented health and safety crisis that requires all Americans, for the sake of all Americans, to significantly change our daily behavior, including behavior at our banks, broker-dealers, investment advisers and other market participants; and (2) the reality that the continuing orderly operation of our credit and other capital markets is an essential factor in driving an effective health and safety response to COVID-19 — our health care, pharmaceutical, transportation, manufacturing, food services and many other industries all depend upon the continuing provision and receipt of capital and credit and the flow of capital more generally.  

With these two issues front of mind, the Commission has focused its resources on the continued orderly functioning of our securities markets—equities, fixed income securities, funds and other products – consistent with evolving health and safety directives.[1]  These efforts have centered on the continued operation of physical infrastructure, including information technology systems, and, predominantly from remote locations, continued human engagement, all the while keeping health and safety as the primary concern.  More specifically, we have worked with a broad array of market participants to ensure that their business continuity plans are consistent and compatible with (1) state and local health and safety directives and other measures, (2) the continued orderly operation of our securities markets and (3) regulatory safeguards, including our steadfast commitment to investor protection.[2]  We greatly appreciate our relationships with, and the cooperation of, federal, state and local authorities in the United States and abroad in these efforts, including the notably universal recognition of the importance of the continuing operation of our capital markets.[3]

Across our organization, we are in regular contact with our domestic regulatory partners, as well as regulatory counterparts in Asia and Europe.  I want to thank my fellow FSOC members and, in particular, the Federal Reserve and the Department of the Treasury for their prompt, decisive actions and ongoing communication and cooperation.  Secretary Mnuchin, Chairman Powell, Vice Chairman Quarles and their teams—I could go on—have responded promptly to every request for information and assistance.  That cooperation has been particularly important to our collective efforts to ensure that trading, settlement and the continued provision of credit is as orderly as practicable under the circumstances.   

I am pleased to report that I believe these collective efforts have been effective.  Over the past several weeks, our securities exchanges, central clearing facilities and other critical components of our market infrastructure have functioned in an orderly manner as market participants have implemented business continuity plans.  Moreover, this has been accomplished in the face of record volatility and capital flows.  I know there are many women and men working around the clock to keep capital and credit flowing, and we thank them.  This greatly reduces the possibility that this unexpected and unprecedented exogenous shock to our economy will transition to a systemic financial risk.    

In addition to our broad market infrastructure efforts, the Commission and SEC staff have also provided more targeted assistance, relief and guidance to market participants.  This includes, just to name a few:  (1) relief to permit publicly traded companies additional time to file certain disclosure reports, (2) guidance to promote continued shareholder engagement—including at virtual annual shareholder meetings—for companies and funds affected by COVID-19 and (3) guidance for investment advisers on conducting business from temporary locations.[4]

Importantly, we want our Main Street investors to know that we are thinking about them in many ways.  Here, I note that the women and men of the SEC are continuing their vigilance in the areas of investor protection, market integrity and cybersecurity.  I also want any bad actor who would seek to use this challenging time to take advantage of our investors or our markets to know:  the women and the men of the SEC are watching.[5]

In closing, I know first-hand that all SEC personnel, and all Americans, are pulling together to get through these challenging times.  I am heartened by these collective efforts, and, much more so, by the efforts of our health care workers and others on the front lines.  Thank you. 

* * *

See here for a discussion of Chairman Clayton’s personal views on the deep and essential connections among markets, businesses, and workers and the importance of maintaining those connections in our fight against COVID-19.

 

[1] See SEC Chairman Jay Clayton, “Statement on the SEC’s Coronavirus Response Efforts – Facilitating the Continued Orderly Operation of Our Capital Markets Consistent with Health and Safety Directives and Other Measures” (Mar. 20, 2020), available at https://www.sec.gov/news/public-statement/clayton-covid-19-2020-03-20

[2] See, e.g., SEC Press Release, “SEC Enables Immediate Effectiveness of Proposed Rule Change to Facilitate NYSE Electronic Auctions in Light of Temporary Closure of Physical Trading Floor” (Mar. 21, 2020), available at https://www.sec.gov/news/press-release/2020-67.

[3] See, e.g., Department of the Treasury Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin, “Statement by Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin on Essential Financial Services Workers” (Mar. 24, 2020), available at https://home.treasury.gov/news/press-releases/sm956.

[4] For an overview of selected SEC response efforts to COVID-19, including guidance and regulatory assistance and relief, please visit the SEC’s “Coronavirus (COVID-19) Response” webpage, available at https://www.sec.gov/sec-coronavirus-covid-19-response.

[5] See SEC Division of Enforcement Co-Directors Stephanie Avakian and Steven Peikin, “Statement from Stephanie Avakian and Steven Peikin, Co-Directors of the SEC’s Division of Enforcement, Regarding Market Integrity” (Mar. 23, 2020), available at https://www.sec.gov/news/public-statement/statement-enforcement-co-directors-market-integrity

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