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Obama nominates Senate aides to serve as SEC commissioners

A woman waits for an elevator in the foyer of the Fort Worth Regional Office of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) in Fort Worth,
A woman waits for an elevator in the foyer of the Fort Worth Regional Office of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) in Fort Worth,

By Sarah N. Lynch

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama nominated two U.S. Senate aides on Thursday to serve as members of the Securities and Exchange Commission, the agency tasked with policing Wall Street.

Obama said Kara Stein, an aide to Rhode Island Democratic Senator Jack Reed, would replace SEC Democratic Commissioner Elisse Walter.

Michael Piwowar, an economist who works for the Senate Banking Committee, would replace SEC Republican Commissioner Troy Paredes, whose term is set to expire in June.

The Senate must approve the nominations.

"Both of their experiences will serve them well as they work to fulfill the SEC's mission of protecting investors and ensuring a fair marketplace," Senate Banking Committee Chairman Tim Johnson of South Dakota said in a statement.

For months, Stein and Piwowar have been mentioned as likely successors to Walter and Paredes.

Obama's decision to nominate them roughly one month after SEC Chairwoman Mary Jo White was sworn in signals the administration is anxious to ensure the agency will have a full, five-member commission to complete its busy rulemaking agenda.

The SEC is trying to complete rules required by the 2010 Dodd-Frank Wall Street reform law.

Much of the work left revolves around a new regulatory scheme for the $640 trillion over-the-counter derivatives market, an area that Stein worked on extensively in Reed's office during the crafting of Dodd-Frank.

The SEC is also under pressure from Congress to complete rules required by a law that eases securities regulations to help small businesses raise capital.

In addition, the SEC is mulling a proposal to impose new regulations on money market mutual funds and continuing to study whether it needs to make major equity market structure changes and rein in high-frequency trading.

The SEC has been under pressure from critics, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, to improve how it weighs the economic impact of its regulations.

It lost several court battles in recent years after business groups sued the agency on the grounds that it failed to conduct a proper cost-benefit analysis.

The SEC has tried to improve its analysis by hiring more economists and drafting new guidance that calls for more involvement by economists in its rulemaking.

Obama's nomination of Piwowar, who once served as a senior economist on the Council of Economic Advisers and a visiting scholar at the SEC, ensures the agency likely won't take its focus off of the issue.

"I am confident that as an SEC commissioner, he will work to fulfill the agency's critical mission of protecting investors, maintaining fair, orderly and efficient markets and facilitating capital formation," said Mike Crapo of Idaho, the senior Republican on the Senate Banking Committee.

(Reporting by Sarah N. Lynch; Editing by Stacey Joyce)

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