WASHINGTON, Jan 20 (Reuters) - Mary Jo White, the former U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, is being considered as a candidate to head up the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, a source familiar with the matter has confirmed.
If she were selected, White would become the third-ever female chairman of the SEC and replace current Chairman Elisse Walter, a commissioner who took over as chairman in December after Mary Schapiro stepped down.
The source, who declined to be named, did not provide any additional details because the deliberations over the SEC chairman candidacy are not public. Bloomberg first reported last week that White was among those in the running.
White did not immediately respond to an e-mail requesting a comment. A White House spokeswoman declined to comment.
It is unclear if Walter is also being considered for a permanent spot, and she has not publicly expressed her ambitions. Walter is able to continue serving as chairman until the end of the year. After that, she would need to be re-confirmed again by the U.S. Senate in order to remain at the agency.
Until a fifth person is tapped by the White House, the SEC currently remains divided between two Democrats and two Republicans - a fact that many believe could slow the agency down and make it harder to finalize controversial rules, such as the Volcker rule to ban banks' proprietary trading and capital-raising measures like a proposal to lift a ban on general advertising.
White, now a well-known and respected white collar defense attorney with Debevoise and Plimpton, became the only female in the 200-year history of the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District, to serve in the top spot there. She served from 1993 through 2002.
She also once served as a director at the Nasdaq Stock Market as well as on its executive, audit and policy committee.
If she is ultimately tapped by the White House, however, it is unclear how some of the more liberal U.S. senators might react given the fact White has been so heavily involved in defending big banks for their roles in the financial crisis.
Last year, White represented JPMorgan Chase & Co in its portion of the $25 billion multibank settlement reached to resolve allegations of mortgage servicing abuses.
She also represented former Bank of America Corp CEO Ken Lewis over a civil lawsuit in connection with Bank of America's acquisition of Merrill Lynch.