Jay Clayton, who has headed the Securities and Exchange Commission for the past three and a half years, which included a number of key changes in the financial markets, said Monday he would step down at the end of the year.
"Working with the incredibly talented and motivated women and men on the SEC has been the highlight of my career," Clayton said in a statement. His term of office would have expired in June 2021.
His term as chairman ends after a period in which the SEC collected approximately $ 14 billion in various fines and agreements in violation of regulatory standards. That included $ 4.68 billion in fiscal 2020, a record.
With the complexity and automation of markets increasing, the SEC was seen as an arbiter to avoid some of the disruptions that were commonplace at the beginning of the decade.
"The US capital markets ecosystem is the strongest and most agile in the world. Thanks to the hard work of the diverse and inclusive SEC team, we have improved investor protection, encouraged capital formation for small and large companies, and enabled our markets to function more transparently and efficiently." said Clayton.
SEC chairs traditionally step down when a government ends, and Clayton's resignation comes two months before Joe Biden takes office. Former US attorney Preet Bharara from Manhattan is one of the agency's potential successors.
Clayton said he wanted to go back to New York. Senior SEC Democratic Commissioner Allison Lee will likely be named as acting chair, according to Reuters.
President Donald Trump named Clayton head of the SEC and has since announced that he will be nominated as a U.S. attorney in Manhattan. Political clashes after Clayton was accused of ousting Geoffrey Berman from work sank the move.
Though some critics said Clayton was too easy for the American company, his tenure came with a high level of enforcement. Perhaps his biggest target was Tesla founder Elon Musk, who was forced to step down as chairman and pay a $ 20 million fine following tweets he sent about the company.