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Secretary of State defends choice for Missouri's securities commissioner

Missouri Secretary of State's office

Updated Jan. 23 with Ashcroft statement Missouri Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft is coming to the defense of David Minnick, his appointee to head the division of securities

Minnick has been under fire from Democrats in the legislature because he now heads the office that’s investigating his former employer, Stifel Financial Corps, for “undisclosed allegations.”

Ashcroft, a Republican, released the following written statement:

“David Minnick grew up outside Chillicothe on a farm and has lived in Missouri most of his life,” Ashcroft said.  “He loves Missouri, and the citizens of this state need people like David to serve the public in state government. His reputation is excellent. He has integrity and is honest. He has a deep, real-life familiarity of the securities industry that will help the Securities Division improve how they conduct examinations and investigations. “Commissioner Minnick has been a prosecutor and a lawyer since he earned his law degree from the University of Missouri in 1981. In the Circuit Court for the City of St. Louis, and in Lincoln County, he prosecuted murder cases, child sexual assaults, robberies – horrible crimes of humanity – and in every instance David represented the victim. He is returning to his roots, protecting people and holding offenders accountable.”

The email containing Ashcroft’s official statement also cited that while working for a number of brokerage firms, Minnick “worked directly with the Securities Division of the Secretary of State’s office – the division he now oversees – giving him an informed opinion on the Division well before he accepted the position.”

Democrats are firing back.

In another statement released Monday by the state Democratic Party, representatives Deb Lavender, D-Kirkwood, and Greg Razer, D-Kansas City, call Minnick’s hiring a conflict of interest.

This is not a partisan issue; this is an issue of blatant corruption,” Razer said. “That’s why Minnick and Ashcroft have been put on the Wall Street Journal’s General Anti-Corruption Watchlist. Appointing someone to lead an investigation into their firm of 10+ years is simply indefensible and needs to be corrected immediately.”

Lavender added, “Missourians know a conflict of interest when they see one, and this appointment doesn’t pass the laugh test.”

Original story from  Jan. 19: A new ethics proposal has been filed in the Missouri House that would apply solely to the secretary of state's office.

House Bill 663 would bar the secretary of state from appointing someone to be securities commissioner if that person's former employer has been under state or federal investigation within one year's time. It's sponsored by state Rep. Tracy McCreery, D-Olivette.

The legislative proposal is a reaction to a recent appointment made by Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft, a Republican. He appointed David Minnick to be the securities commissioner after taking office earlier this month. Minnick's former employer, Stifel Financial Corps, is currently being investigated by the securities division for undisclosed allegations.

"I believe that what secretary of state Ashcroft did should be illegal and was shocked to find out that it wasn't, actually" McCreery said. "I don't think that commissioner of securities (Minnick), whose main job, in my opinion, is to protect investors from fraud, is a good check."

Maura Browning, Ashcroft's communications director, dismissed the issue as "silly."

"Missourians can be confident that the secretary of state will hold every member of his staff accountable, and they can continue to be confident in commissioner David Minnick," she said.

Minnick would get to keep his job if McCreery's bill becomes law, as it would only affect future appointments to the post.

"I saw some press on this over the weekend and I kind of stewed about it and thought, 'well, I'm at least going to try to do the right thing for consumers moving forward,'" McCreery said. "I just filed the bill today and will definitely be reaching out to speaker (Todd) Richardson to see if I can get a (public) hearing."

Browning defended Minnick's choice as head of the Division of Securities: "Commissioner Minnick has incredibly valuable work experience, both as a prosecutor and as an attorney. It's unfortunate that someone that has his wealth of experience is being criticized so much, because he is exactly the kind of person that we need to work in state government."

Browning added that the Stifel investigation, begun last year under secretary of state Jason Kander, will continue and that "there will be some resolution."

Follow Marshall Griffin on Twitter:  @MarshallGReport

Marshal was a political reporter for St. Louis Public Radio until 2018.

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