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The Securities and Exchange Commission is often referred to as “Wall Street’s regulator,” and when people think about the SEC, their minds can often turn to the movies where lawyers in trench coats show up to bust somebody for bad behavior.
Yes, the SEC does play a critical enforcement role as the regulator of America’s securities markets, but that’s far from its entire mission. Another important role the SEC plays is to develop regulations that apply to all of America’s public companies, the vast majority of which employ and serve people on Main Street, not Wall Street.
American entrepreneurs have always dreamed about turning their ideas into businesses and then taking those businesses public. For much of its history, the SEC administered a reasonable regulatory framework that allowed public companies and their investors to thrive, while providing for the transparency and investor protections that have become a hallmark of our capital markets.
Remember that moment during one of the 2016 presidential debates when the candidates engaged in a deep and provocative discussion about the laws and regulations that apply to public companies? For days, the country was swept up in matters of corporate governance. You couldn’t hop into a taxi or drop by the water cooler without engaging in a debate over board declassification, total shareholder return, proxy advisory firms, or Item 201(e) of Regulation S-K – and how we had to get those issues right in order to secure the future of the republic.