Last week, Mary Jo White delivered her “farewell address” to The Economic Club of New York upon the completion of her term as the 31st Chair of the Securities and Exchange Commission. Her remarks came almost four years to the day after President Barack Obama memorably said, in nominating her to head the SEC, “You don’t mess with Mary Jo.” It is not surprising, then, that Ms. White’s final speech was a plea for the continued “independence” of the SEC. She concluded her remarks by stating that “[t]he present moment is a delicate one. The post-crisis Commission has been revitalized and remains the investor’s strongest advocate, but it is more susceptible than ever to the erosion of its expertise and authority by the partisan tides. It will remain independent — and therefore able to meet its broad range of critical responsibilities — only with Commissioners equipped and motivated to act expertly and with only our mission in mind. It will also be up to others, including Congress, to offer an unwavering defense — not of the SEC’s actions — but of the agency’s independence and the right of the Commission to exercise it to further our critical mission.” Her speech at the Economic Club luncheon came just days after the SEC’s release of its list of the 2017 Examination Priorities for its Office of Compliance Inspections and Examinations (OCIE). The 2017 priorities are organized around three broad “thematic areas”: 1. Protection of Retail Investors; 2. Risks Specific to Elderly and Retiring Investors; and 3. Assessing market-wide risks. Included within those themes are examination initiatives which will focus on electronic investment advice or “robo-advisers,” wrap fee programs, ETFs, “never-before-examined” investment advisers, recidivist representatives (of brokers and advisers) and their employers, advisers to retirement accounts and senior investors, and cybersecurity. OCIE also expects to allocate examination resources to other priorities including the examination of municipal advisors, transfer agents and private fund advisers (where the SEC will continue to focus on conflicts of interest and disclosure of conflicts). Clearly, Ms. White is concerned that her successor may erode the SEC’s independence, thereby undermining the SEC’s current agenda. Some commentators have raised concerns about the nominee for SEC Chair, “Wall Street” M&A lawyer Jay Clayton, arguing that his current position makes him conflicted. Those pundits note that in addition to representing “big banks,” Mr. Clayton is married to a wealth management advisor/broker. So presumably, those commentators worry, a portion of Clayton’s family income while he is in office will come from a company that he is charged with overseeing. Of course, Mary Jo White also spent time defending Wall Street as an attorney in private practice following her career as a federal prosecutor, and her husband was and continued to be a corporate lawyer at another large Wall Street law firm. In her remarks, Chair White said: “I strongly believe that the agency’s independence has been critical in allowing it to use its expert judgment to do what is best for investors and the markets — a task that could otherwise be rendered impossible by the whims of political pressure or the public mood.” Whether the independence of the SEC will be compromised, as the outgoing Chair fears, and, if so, whether such loss of independence will seriously impede the SEC’s primary mission of protecting investors and the markets, will, of course, remain to be seen