The Securities and Exchange Commission has sworn in Mary Jo White as its 31st chairman, bringing with her experience as a federal prosecutor and securities lawyer.
White was nominated by President Obama in February and confirmed by the Senate on Monday (see SEC Gets New Chairman as Senate Approves Ex-Prosecutor Mary Jo White).
"It is an honor to lead the talented and dedicated SEC staff on behalf of America's investors and markets," White said in a statement Wednesday. "Our markets are the envy of the world precisely because of the SEC's work effectively regulating the markets, requiring comprehensive disclosure, and vigorously enforcing the securities laws."
White specialized in prosecuting complex securities and financial institution frauds and international terrorism cases when she served as the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York from 1993 to 2002. Under her leadership, the office earned convictions against the terrorists responsible for the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center and the bombings of American embassies in Africa. She is the only woman to hold the top position in the 200-year-plus history of that office.
Prior to becoming U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, White served as the First Assistant U.S. Attorney and later Acting U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York from 1990 to 1993. She previously served as an Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York from 1978 to 1981 and became Chief Appellate Attorney of the Criminal Division.
After leaving her U.S. Attorney post, Chairman White became chair of the litigation department at Debevoise & Plimpton in New York, where she led a team of more than 200 lawyers. Chairman White previously was a litigation partner at the firm from 1983 to 1990 and worked as an associate from 1976 to 1978.
The Financial Accounting Foundation, the organization that oversees the Financial Accounting Standards Board and the Governmental Accounting Standards Board, praised White.
“The Financial Accounting Foundation and its standard-setting boards, the Financial Accounting Standards Board and the Governmental Accounting Standards Board, extend their congratulations to the Hon. Mary Jo White on her confirmation by the U.S. Senate as chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission,” said FAF president and CEO Teresa S. Polley in a statement. “The FAF appreciates and applauds Chairman White’s strong commitment to the Commission’s mission to promote relevant, reliable, consistent, and comparable accounting financial and reporting standards that enable investors to make well-informed investment decisions and that contribute to the efficiency of our capital markets. We at the FAF, the FASB, and the GASB stand ready to assist her in achieving her goals.”
The Center for Audit Quality also issued a statement of congratulations after the Senate confirmed her. “Mary Jo White is an excellent choice to serve as the chairman of the SEC,” said CAQ executive director Cindy Fornelli. “A former U.S. Attorney, Chairman White has a sterling record of enforcing the law in our capital markets and fighting for investors’ interests. The CAQ vigorously supports her position that as Chairman, the American public will be her client. The SEC has a proud tradition as the investor’s advocate, and Chairman White is well-suited to carry that banner. The CAQ and the public company auditing profession offer congratulations to Chairman White.”
Financial Executives International also hailed White’s confirmation. "FEI would like to applaud the Senate's confirmation of Mary Jo White as Chairman of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission,” said FEI president and CEO Marie Hollein in a statement. “Chairman White's solid background and vast experience in leading complex enforcement cases make her well-suited for this position, and we congratulate her on this new role. The permanent appointment of a new SEC chairman has been top of mind for our members as we seek continued developments on longstanding issues. We believe White is an excellent individual to lead the SEC during this critical time, and as an organization, we look forward to providing feedback to this regulatory agency on behalf of our members."
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