Required Reading for New Commissioners (Part 2)

We are discussing Commissioner Aguilar's recent public statement, Commissioner Aguilar's (Hopefully) Helpful Tips for New SEC Commissioners.  

The statement also includes insight into the internal process of the Commission.  Commissioners sometimes vote neither at an open nor closed meeting but by seriatim.  The power to schedule this type of vote apparently falls to the Chair.  As Commissioner Aguilar notes: 

  • Matters are often voted “by seriatim,” which means that these matters are being circulated to each Commissioner’s office in turn, Commissioner-by-Commissioner, for his or her vote. The Chair typically votes last, but given that the Chair decides whether to circulate a seriatim in the first instance, it is reasonable to assume the Chair will approve it. Seriatims can be tricky because one Commissioner can hold onto a seriatim (a “desk drawer veto,” if you will). Dealing with this usually falls on the Chair, but sometimes you may have a particular interest in seeing a seriatim get voted and approved. In that case, your only options are either to persuade your fellow Commissioner to “move it along” (even if he or she votes to “disapprove” it) or to persuade the Chair to have it voted on at a public open meeting (or, occasionally, in a closed non-public Commission meeting, if allowed under an exemption to the Sunshine Act). Fortunately, under Chair White this hasn’t been a significant issue.

This type of authority facilitates Commission action by allowing decisions to be made in between meetings. The ability to exercise a "desk drawer veto" suggests that these sorts of votes are primarily designed to resolve routine matters.      

J Robert Brown Jr.