| WASHINGTON, March 29
WASHINGTON, March 29 Four Democrats on the
Senate Banking Committee have called for an investigation into
whether the acting chairman of the U.S. Securities and Exchange
Commission exceeded his authority by taking steps to scale back
or delay rules required by the 2010 Dodd-Frank law.
In a letter to the SEC's internal watchdog, Inspector
General Carl Hoecker, the Democrats said acting SEC Chairman
Mike Piwowar should not have ordered staff to review the SEC's
rules on "conflict minerals" and CEO pay ratios because they are
mandated by Congress.
Both rules are part of Dodd-Frank, which was passed in 2010
to prevent a repeat of the financial crisis. Republicans have
been highly critical of the law, saying its regulatory
requirements are too burdensome for businesses.
"We ask that you conduct an investigation into each of these
decisions to determine whether they are legally permissible, and
in keeping with the SEC's core mission," wrote the lawmakers,
which include Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, Sherrod Brown
of Ohio, Robert Menendez of New Jersey and Brian Schatz of
Hawaii. Brown is the top Democrat on the committee, which has 12
Republicans and 11 Democrats.
Christopher Carofine, a spokesman for Piwowar's office,
declined to comment. A spokesman for the inspector general's
office could not be immediately reached for comment.
In Wednesday's letter, the lawmakers also complained because
Piwowar recently revoked the power of certain mid-level managers
in the enforcement division to issue subpoenas, and vested the
power solely with the unit's director.
Decisions on how to delegate such authority rest with the
SEC chair and do not require a commission vote.
Similarly, while the SEC chair cannot adopt rules
unilaterally, SEC rules give the chairman fairly broad latitude
to take other actions, such as hiring or directing staff to
Piwowar, a Republican, became the temporary head of the SEC
in January. President Donald Trump's choice for SEC chairman,
Jay Clayton, is awaiting Senate confirmation.
Piwowar announced in late January he had asked staff to
review prior compliance guidance on the conflict minerals rule
to determine if "additional relief" is appropriate. He took
similar steps with the CEO pay rule a few days later.
The conflict minerals rule requires companies to tell
investors if their products contain certain minerals from a war
torn part of Africa.
The CEO pay ratio rule requires companies to provide a ratio
comparing their chief executive officer's pay to the median
workforce, and is set to start appearing in corporate filings
during the 2018 proxy season.
(Reporting by Sarah N. Lynch; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)