May 21, 2013
Obama taps former federal prosecutor to head SEC
US President Barack Obama today nominated former federal prosecutor Mary Jo White to head the Securities and Exchange Commission, picking a tough enforcement hand who more recently has defended Wall Street figures.
White, the former US attorney for the Southern District of New York known for prosecuting terrorists and mob bosses, would become the third consecutive woman to hold the post.
"We need to keep going after irresponsible behavior in the financial industry so that taxpayers don't pay the price. I am absolutely confident that Mary Jo has the experience and the resolve to tackle these complex issues and to protect the American people in a way that is smart and in a way that is fair," Obama said in announcing the nomination.
The pick quickly drew praise from both Wall Street and reform advocates who say White would ably steer the powerful agency that plays a key role in overseeing U.S. financial markets.
However, White does not have a deep securities policy background, and in her recent private practice work she represented major players in the financial crisis, including former Bank of America Corp Chief Executive Ken Lewis.
The president also renominated Richard Cordray to continue as head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the U.S. watchdog for consumer products such as mortgages and student loans.
New York's Charles Schumer, a Democrat who is part of the Senate leadership and sits on the powerful Senate Banking Committee, praised White's reputation as a tough-as-nails prosecutor and predicted she will "easily be confirmed."
A swift confirmation for White could help the SEC speed up its implementation of the dozens of unfinished rules required by the 2010 Dodd-Frank Wall Street reform law.
White would succeed current SEC Chairman Elisse Walter, a Democratic commissioner who took over in December after predecessor Mary Schapiro stepped down.
Schapiro's departure left the commission divided between two Democrats and two Republicans, and observers said the split could make it nearly impossible to complete controversial rules, such as the Volcker Rule, which bans banks from proprietary trading.