President Obama nominated former prosecutor Mary Jo White as the next chair of the Securities and Exchange Commission.
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White is a former U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York who served from 1992 to 2002. She has a reputation as a no-nonsense prosecutor who won convictions against terrorism suspects involved in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing and other high-profile cases such as reputed mobster John Gotti (see Former U.S. Attorney Mary Jo White May Be Next SEC Chair).
"You don't want to mess with Mary Jo," Obama said. "Mary Jo does not intimidate easily, and that's important because she has a big job ahead of her."
White would succeed Elisse Walter, who took over as acting SEC chairman last month after Mary Schapiro stepped down. Walter, who had been a member of the commission, reportedly agreed to take over the chairmanship only temporarily, but had not wished to stay on as chairman. White is currently a partner at the law firm Debevoise & Plimpton LLP in New York.
Obama announced the nomination of White on Thursday afternoon, and re-nominated Richard Cordray as director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Obama tapped the former Ohio attorney general to lead the recently established bureau last year in a recess appointment when senior Republican lawmakers raised objections to him and a prior prospective nominee, Elizabeth Warren, who helped established the agency before winning a Senate seat last November.
White may face less opposition from senior Republicans. Commenting on White’s nomination, Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, ranking Republican member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said that having an SEC chairman with prosecutorial experience could be helpful. “The SEC has had some notable enforcement cases lately. I hope the next chairman will continue that trend,” Grassley said in a statement. “Having an SEC chairman with extensive prosecutorial experience can be a good thing. With the Justice Department repeatedly giving large financial institutions a pass on prosecutions, the SEC is the last line of defense for individual investors. Whistleblowers continue to play an important role in SEC enforcement efforts, and it will be important to determine Ms. White’s experience in working with and cultivating cooperation from Wall Street whistleblowers.”
The new SEC chair will need to deal with a host of unfinished business, including International Financial Reporting Standards, which the SEC has yet to say it will allow for U.S. companies to use, and other pending issues, such as financial regulations mandated by the Dodd-Frank Act that have not yet been written or implemented.