U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission Chairman Jay Clayton says his agency is investigating claims that a Virginia-based advocacy group was behind suspicious comment letters submitted in support of a rule change sought by large corporations.
“We’re having an investigation done of this issue,” Clayton said Tuesday in response to a question at a Senate Banking Committee hearing in Washington.
Lawmakers sought answers from Clayton on what the SEC was doing to address revelations in a Nov. 19 Bloomberg News story that some people whose names appeared on comment letters in support of changes to shareholder-voting rules said they hadn’t submitted them. A Democratic watchdog group last week called on the agency to investigate the role played by the 60 Plus Association, a Virginia advocacy group.
“Very shortly after the Bloomberg article came out, we contacted our general counsel and office of inspector general,” Clayton said in response to a question from Senator Tina Smith, a Minnesota Democrat.
Saul Anuzis, the president of 60 Plus, said last week that although his group helped draft and submit letters, all of the people whose names were used gave permission, “and they will be willing to sign an affidavit to testify as such.” He said people who told Bloomberg News that they didn’t know about their letters may have forgotten.
Clayton declined to respond when asked whether he thought it should be illegal for groups to submit comment letters in the name of individuals.
“The comment process is an open process,” he said. “Let’s see what happens with the investigation.”