Securities and Exchange (SEC) Commissioner Hester M. Peirce visited William & Mary Law School on Wednesday, October 30 to deliver a public talk during the lunch hour. Her visit was sponsored by the Law School’s Center for the Study of Law and Markets.
Peirce, who noted that any views expressed were her own and not necessarily those of the SEC or fellow commissioners, began with a short description of the SEC as a body of five commissioners.
“We are a politically balanced commission, which means that the president’s party gets the majority of the commissioners, and there are two from the other party typically,” Peirce said.
The Commission is responsible for, among other things, interpreting and enforcing federal securities laws, and issuing new rules and amending existing rules.
Not surprisingly, Peirce considers it an interesting job.
“You get a lot of insight over everything related to the stock markets, to financial professionals who engage with clients, to thinking about how companies raise capital,” she said. “It’s a nice way to get insight into lots of parts of the economy.”
Peirce said that she was drawn to securities and markets because capital markets bring together people with money and people with ideas.
“Together those people can build corporations, which in turn can make products and services that serve people, that provide people with what they need,” Peirce said. “In the process of doing that, they hire people.”
For Peirce, capital markets unlock people’s talent and enable them to make the most of their lives, as well as provide for their children’s lives.
Peirce admitted that students are usually advised to serve society through government, but she hoped they would also consider other spheres, including the corporate sphere.
Noting that it is an interesting time to be at the SEC, Peirce went on to describe some of the issues that the Commission is currently dealing with. One involves examining how decentralized networks—rather than corporations—can connect people from all over the world through innovations like cryptocurrencies and lead to new opportunities. Another issue is tackling the problem of fewer and fewer companies going public.
Peirce generously gave over much of her time to questions from the audience, and students came prepared. One student asked if the decrease of IPOs would hurt markets. Another wondered how difficult it was to become a public company.
Peirce concluded by saying it is a good time for students to be interested in securities markets and their regulation, and she encouraged them to consider it as a career.
Peirce is not the first SEC commissioner that the Center for the Study of Law and Markets has brought to campus for public lectures. Michael S. Piwowar visited in March 2018, and Robert J. Jackson, Jr. in November 2018.
“We have had three commissioners visit the Law School,” said Kevin Haeberle, a faculty fellow of the Center for the Study of Law and Markets and the faculty host of the event. “Each of them brings an impressive background in law, economics, and law and economics. And they bring that to regulation in a way that brings about more informed regulation.”
Peirce was appointed by President Donald Trump to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and was sworn in on January 11, 2018.
Prior to joining the Commission, Peirce served as Senior Research Fellow and Director of the Financial Markets Working Group (now Program on Financial Regulation) at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University. While at the Mercatus Center, Peirce’s research explored how financial markets foster economic growth and prosperity and the role well-designed regulation plays in protecting investors and consumers while promoting financial stability and innovation. Peirce co-edited two books, authored publications, testified before Congress, and served on the SEC’s Investor Advisory Committee.
Before joining the Mercatus Center, Peirce worked on Senator Richard Shelby’s Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs staff as Senior Counsel. In that position, she oversaw financial regulatory reform efforts following the 2008 financial crisis and conducted oversight of the regulatory implementation of the Dodd-Frank Act.
During her visit to campus, Commissioner Peirce was also a guest on the "Leadership & Business" podcast produced by the W&M Center for Corporate Education.
About the Center for the Study of Law and Markets
The Center for the Study of Law and Markets at William & Mary Law School seeks to advance the understanding of the role of legal institutions in promoting well-functioning markets in a free society. Learn more.
Thomas Jefferson founded William & Mary Law School in 1779 to train leaders for the new nation. Now in its third century, America's oldest law school continues its historic mission of educating citizen lawyers who are prepared both to lead and to serve.