The Appointment of Senior Program Fellow Robert Jackson as SEC Commissioner

The U.S. Senate recently voted by unanimous consent to confirm Hester Peirce and Robert J. Jackson Jr. as SEC Commissioners (for a description of each commissioner’s background and experience, see their written statements submitted to the Senate committee, available here and here). The Forum congratulates both Commissioners and wishes them much success in their important work. The Forum is also pleased and honored to note Commissioner Jackson’s long-standing work for over a decade with the Harvard Law School Program on Corporate Governance and the Forum.

Jackson graduated from Harvard Law School in 2005. During his time as a student, Jackson worked at the Program on Corporate Governance and co-authored with Professor Lucian Bebchuk a study on Executive Pensions. The study documented the large amounts that CEOs of public companies were receiving in the forms of pensions that were not made transparent by then-existing disclosure rules. The Bebchuk-Jackson study (on which the authors also relied in a comment letter submitted to the SEC) contributed to the SEC’s 2006 reform of the rules governing disclosure of executive pensions.

After a year of clerking on the Second Circuit, Jackson returned to Harvard to work with Bebchuk as a postdoctoral fellow at the Program on Corporate Governance. During his postdoctoral fellowship, Jackson served as the Forum’s first editor during its initial and formative period. Interviewed for an article about the Forum’s anniversary in the Harvard Law School Bulletin, Jackson commented: “[Editing the Forum] gave me … an experience that convinced me that legal academia was the place for me…Ten years later, I still draw on those relationships and insights in my teaching and scholarship.”

Following his postdoctoral fellowship, Jackson practiced as an associate at Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz and then served as an adviser to senior officials at the Treasury Department during the financial crisis. He and Bebchuk advised Kenneth Feinberg in the Office of the Special Master for TARP Executive Compensation, helping to reform pay practices at firms like AIG and Citigroup. While at the Treasury, Jackson also helped produce the Obama Administration’s proposals and rulemaking on executive pay and corporate governance, including rules governing say on pay and compensation in financial institutions.

After the passage of Dodd-Frank, Jackson joined Columbia Law School and served on its faculty for six years until his confirmation as an SEC Commissioner. During this period, he continued to work with the Program, serving as a Senior Fellow, and to carry out joint research with Bebchuk. The Program issued five studies that Jackson co-authored with Bebchuk during this period—two articles on corporate political spending (Corporate Political Speech: Who Decides? and Shining Light on Corporate Political Spending), an article on the constitutional limits on the use of poison pills (Toward a Constitutional Review of the Poison Pill), and two articles on pre-disclosure stock accumulations by activist investors (The Law and Economics of Blockholder Disclosure, and, jointly with Alon Brav and Wei Jiang, Pre-Disclosure Accumulations by Activist Investors: Evidence and Policy).

In 2011, along with Bebchuk, Jackson co-chaired a bipartisan committee of academics urging the SEC to adopt rules requiring public companies to disclose to investors whether and how they spend shareholder money on politics. Their study Shining Light on Corporate Political Spending (discussed on the Forum here) subsequently put forward a comprehensive case for such disclosure. The petition has attracted more than 1.2 million comments urging the SEC to adopt such rules—more than any other petition in the SEC’s history—and a bipartisan group of three former SEC Commissioners wrote the SEC to explain that the petition’s proposal is a “slam dunk.” Jackson, together with Bebchuk, published a long series of posts on the Forum about the petition, including many posts responding to each of the objections to the petition opponents have raised (see the Forum posts here).

During his time as law professor, Jackson also founded a lab at Columbia Law School that used data-science techniques in the study of securities markets. In one study that has received considerable attention (How Quickly Do Markets Learn? Private Information Dissemination in a Natural Experiment), Jackson and co-authors Wei Jiang and Joshua Mitts identified and studied high-speed trading activity on SEC systems. In another study (How Does Legal Enforceability Affect Consumer Lending? Evidence from a Natural Experiment), Jackson and co-authors Colleen Honigsberg and Richard Squire carried out cutting-edge investigative work showing the effects of a surprising Second Circuit decision on the availability of consumer credit.

Reacting to Jackson’s confirmation, Program Director Bebchuk stated that “Rob Jackson will bring to the SEC a perfect blend of academic rigor, a keen understanding of the rich and complex texture of institutions, rules and markets, and a strong commitment to public service and the protection of investors.” The Forum wishes Jackson much success and looks forward to following his contributions to SEC work.

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  • Programs Faculty & Senior Fellows

    Lucian Bebchuk
    Alon Brav
    Robert Charles Clark
    John Coates
    Alma Cohen
    Stephen M. Davis
    Allen Ferrell
    Jesse Fried
    Oliver Hart
    Ben W. Heineman, Jr.
    Scott Hirst
    Howell Jackson
    Wei Jiang
    Reinier Kraakman
    Robert Pozen
    Mark Ramseyer
    Mark Roe
    Robert Sitkoff
    Holger Spamann
    Guhan Subramanian

  • Program on Corporate Governance Advisory Board

    William Ackman
    Peter Atkins
    Allison Bennington
    Richard Brand
    Daniel Burch
    Jesse Cohn
    Joan Conley
    Isaac Corré
    Arthur Crozier
    Ariel Deckelbaum
    Deb DeHaas
    John Finley
    Stephen Fraidin
    Byron Georgiou
    Joseph Hall
    Jason M. Halper
    Paul Hilal
    Carl Icahn
    Jack B. Jacobs
    Paula Loop
    David Millstone
    Theodore Mirvis
    Toby Myerson
    Morton Pierce
    Barry Rosenstein
    Paul Rowe
    Marc Trevino
    Adam Weinstein
    Daniel Wolf