President Obama has named SEC commissioner Elisse B. Walter as the new chair of the Securities and Exchange Commission, succeeding Mary Schapiro.

Schapiro said Monday that she intends to step down on December 14 after four years of leading the commission (see SEC Chair Mary Schapiro to Step Down in December). Obama said Monday that he intends to designate Walter, a current commissioner, as chair when Schapiro departs next month.

“I want to express my deep gratitude to Mary Schapiro for her steadfast leadership at the Securities and Exchange Commission,” Obama said in a statement. “When Mary agreed to serve nearly four years ago, she was fully aware of the difficulties facing the SEC and our economy as a whole. But she accepted the challenge, and today, the SEC is stronger and our financial system is safer and better able to serve the American people – thanks in large part to Mary's hard work. I am also pleased to designate Elisse Walter as SEC Chairman after Mary's departure. I'm confident that Elisse's years of experience will serve her well in her new position, and I'm grateful she has agreed to help lead the agency.”

Walter was appointed by President George W. Bush to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission and was sworn in on July 9, 2008. Obama later named Walter as Acting SEC Chairman in January 2009 until Schapiro was named as SEC chair.

Prior to her appointment as an SEC commissioner, Walter served as senior executive vice president for regulatory policy and programs at the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority. Walter coordinated policy issues across FINRA and oversaw a number of departments including Investment Company Regulation, Member Education and Training, Investor Education and Emerging Regulatory Issues. She also served on the board of directors of the FINRA Investor Education Foundation.

She held the same position of senior executive vice president for regulatory policy and programs at the National Association of Security Dealers before its 2007 consolidation with the New York Stock Exchange’s Member Regulation unit to form FINRA.

Prior to joining NASD, Walter served as general counsel of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission. Before joining the CFTC in 1994, she was the deputy director of the SEC’s Division of Corporation Finance. She served on the SEC staff beginning in 1977, both in that division and in the Office of the General Counsel. Before joining the SEC, Walter was an attorney with a private law firm.

She is a member of the Academy of Women Achievers of the YWCA of the City of New York and the inaugural class of the ABA's DirectWomen Institute. She also has received, among other honors, the Presidential Rank Award (Distinguished), the SEC Chairman's Award for Excellence, the SEC's Distinguished Service Award, and the Federal Bar Association's Philip Loomis and Manuel F. Cohen Younger Lawyer Awards.

Walter graduated from Yale University with a B.A., cum laude, in mathematics and received her J.D. degree, cum laude, from Harvard Law School. She is married to Ronald Alan Stern, and they have two sons, Jonathan and Evan.

The American Institute of CPAs welcomed Walter's appointment and praised Schapiro. “Acknowledging that the work of CPAs is critical to the effective functioning of our capital markets, Mary Schapiro has demonstrated a willingness to engage in a constructive dialogue with the AICPA on a wide range of issues," said AICPA president and CEO Barry Melancon in a statement. "We commend her for putting the needs of the investing public first during her tenure as chairman. And we wish her the best. I also want to take this opportunity to congratulate Commissioner Elisse Walter upon her nomination to succeed Mary as chairman. She is a very able and experienced regulator. We are committed to working with her on the many financial and accounting matters of importance to CPAs and investors alike.”

The Center for Audit Quality also praised both SEC leaders. “The CAQ and the public company auditing profession wish to thank Chairman Mary Schapiro for her leadership of the SEC and her stewardship of the U.S. capital markets during a period of great tumult, as the markets staggered and the fate of the SEC was in question," said CAQ executive director Cindy Fornelli. "She is to be commended for bringing order to the markets and for keeping the Commission focused on its role as the investor’s advocate. Chairman Schapiro’s long career of public service has been a superb example for all of us. We wish her every success in her future endeavors. We also wish to congratulate Elisse Walter on her designation as Chairman of the SEC. As an SEC Commissioner, she has admirably served investors and the markets, and is an excellent choice to lead the Commission.”