SEC, CFPB nominees to face Senate panel next Tuesday

WASHINGTON Tue Mar 5, 2013 3:09pm EST

U.S. President Barack Obama (R) stands next to Mary Jo White, a former United States attorney, after he announces her to be the next chairwoman of the Securities and Exchange Commission, in the State Dining Room of the White House in Washington, January 24, 2013. REUTERS/Larry Downing

U.S. President Barack Obama (R) stands next to Mary Jo White, a former United States attorney, after he announces her to be the next chairwoman of the Securities and Exchange Commission, in the State Dining Room of the White House in Washington, January 24, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Larry Downing

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Senate Banking Committee will hold a hearing on March 12 to consider the nominations of Mary Jo White and Richard Cordray to head the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, respectively.

White, a 65-year-old former federal prosecutor, was nominated by President Barack Obama to chair the SEC earlier this year. If confirmed, she would replace current SEC Chairman Elisse Walter, who took over the helm of the agency in December after Mary Schapiro stepped down.

Known for her aggressive prosecutions of terrorists and mob bosses and her fiercely independent streak, White is not expected to face opposition.

But little is known about her views on securities regulatory policy, and she could face tough questions about her more recent career as a white-collar defense attorney for Wall Street firms, including JPMorgan.

The hearing will give senators and the public for the first time a deeper look at what kind of regulator White will be, and whether she has the ability to help the currently divided SEC overcome the gridlock that has made it difficult for the agency to complete rule-writing required by the 2010 Dodd-Frank Wall Street reform law.

CORDRAY NOMINATION COULD BE CONTENTIOUS

The more heated portion of the hearing could be focused on Cordray, who has been leading the CFPB under a recess appointment that serves as a bypass to Senate confirmation.

Republicans have continued to fiercely oppose his nomination to the CFPB amid disagreements over how the new bureau is structured.

The CFPB is a new regulator created through Dodd-Frank that is tasked with protecting consumers from potentially predatory lending products, such as mortgages, credit cards and payday loans.

Republican senators have blocked confirmation of a director since the bureau opened in July 2011, saying it should be led by a bipartisan board similar to the way the SEC is run, rather than by a single director.

Obama's recess appointment of Cordray made business groups and Republicans irate. They have argued that the move was illegal because Congress was not technically in recess at the time. A court ruling that struck down a similar recess appointment has cast further legal doubt over Cordray's leadership.

With Cordray's temporary term due to expire at the end of 2013, Obama earlier this year renominated him for a longer-term directorship.

(Reporting by Sarah N. Lynch and Emily Stephenson; Editing by Dan Grebler)