Voting Records of SEC Commissioners

The divided nature of the Commission is not news.  At public meetings, more and more decisions are a 3-2 vote.  The public meetings involve only a small percentage for the decisions made by the Commission.  Divided votes at non-public meetings are generally not known. 

One exception concerns decisions resulting in a Commission order.  In those circumstances, the vote is noted by hand in an order maintained by the Commission.  To the extent commissioners dissented, that will be noted on the Order.  To obtain the information, however, it has, in the past, been necessary to examine the Order, something that can be obtained through a FOIA Request.  In other words, the information, unlike a division at a public meeting, was not easily available.

That is no longer the case.  The information can be obtained on line on a page maintained by the SEC that contains "Frequently Requested FOIA Documents."  The page includes a category titled "Final Commissioner Votes" from April 2006 through August 2015. The File includes votes in rules (final and proposed) and orders in administrative proceedings.  The notations note when a particular commissioner is "not participating."  Sometimes the notations state only "Dissapproved."  In those circumstances, the reasons for dissapproval are not apparent.  Commissioners may, however, issue dissents in other forums that disclose the reasons.  Those dissents are not in this file. 

In August 2015, for example, Commissioners Stein and Piwowar "Dissapproved" in In re Citigroup, Securities Act Release No. 9894 (admin proc Aug. 17, 2015) and In re Citigroup, Securities Act Release No. 9896 (admin proc Aug. 19, 2015). The latter is a "waiver release" under the advisers

In July, in connection with Exchange Act Release No. (July 1, 2015), the proposed "clawback rule", Commissioners Gallagher and Piwowar "Dissapproved."  Unlike the Orders, this information is already available in the record of the open meeting that addressed the proposal.  Moreover, the Commissioners both explained the basis for their dissents at he meeting.  (The dissent for Commissioner Gallagher is here and for Commissioner Piwowar here). 

In In re Dickson, Exchange Act Release No. 75418 (admin proc July 9, 2015), the notation in the file states
"Commissioner Gallagher Commissioner Piwowar dissented as to the Municipal Advisor and NRSRO Bars". The same notation appeared on the Order for In re Holdman, Exchange Act Release No. 75462 (admin proc July 15, 2015).  In In re Edwards, Exchange Act Release No. 75563 (admin proc July 30, 2015), Commissioner Piwowar "Disapproved." Interestingly, in this case, two commissioners were listed as "not participating" suggesting that th evote was 2-1. 

Over time, we may explore more of the voting records set out in these files.  Nonetheless, they provide an important source of information on the views of, and the divisions in, the Commission. 

J Robert Brown Jr.