By Sarah N. Lynch
WASHINGTON, April 8 The U.S. Senate on Monday
confirmed former federal prosecutor Mary Jo White as the new
head of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, the agency
tasked with policing Wall Street and writing new rules of the
road for financial markets.
White received wide bipartisan support in the Senate thanks
to her reputation as a tough former U.S. Attorney for the
Southern District of New York, where she went after mobsters and
White was nominated in January by President Barack Obama,
roughly a month after SEC Chairman Mary Schapiro stepped down
from the post.
She sailed through her March 12 confirmation hearing before
the Senate Banking Committee and received little
opposition on March 19 when the panel voted 21-1 to send her
confirmation to the full Senate.
"The SEC needs a strong leader in place as it works to
implement Wall Street Reform, and that is exactly what the
commission is getting with Mary Jo White," said Senate Banking
Committee Chairman Tim Johnson in a statement.
"After meeting her, listening to her testimony, and closely
reviewing her qualifications, it came as no surprise that she
received such overwhelming bipartisan support for her
White will be taking over at the SEC at a critical time. The
agency still has much work remaining as it seeks to finalize
rules required by the 2010 Dodd-Frank Wall Street reform law,
particularly in the areas of over-the-counter derivatives and
The agency is also behind on completing capital-raising
rules required by more recent legislation, the 2012 Jumpstart
Our Business Startups (JOBS) Act, which relaxes certain
securities regulations to help small businesses raise funds and
The SEC has been stuck in a rut since Schapiro left in
December, leaving the five-member panel divided between two
Democrats and two Republicans.
Since then, the SEC has done little in the way of rule
What little criticism White has received so far has mostly
been about her ties to Wall Street.
After working as a prosecutor, she became a partner at
Debevoise & Plimpton where she represented high-profile clients,
including JPMorgan Chase & Co, former Bank of America
Corp CEO Ken Lewis, UBS AG and accounting
giant Deloitte & Touche LLP.
Some, including Ohio Democrat Senator Sherrod Brown, have
raised concerns that this "Wall Street bias" could harm the SEC,
an agency that has been accused by some of striking weak
settlements with Wall Street banks over their behavior during
the 2007-2009 financial crisis.
Little is also known thus far about White's views on
securities regulatory policy and how she will direct critical
rule-making, including a controversial plan to reform the $2.6
trillion money market fund industry.
The Senate's vote on Monday only allows for White to fill
out the remainder of Schapiro's term, which expires in June
Obama had nominated White to both fill out Schapiro's term
and also to serve a full, five-year term at the helm of the SEC.
It is unclear exactly when the Senate will take a vote on
the longer-term nomination, although some aides have said it
will possibly come up later after Obama nominates two new
commissioners to replace Elisse Walter and Troy Paredes.
Walter, a Democrat who is serving as SEC chairman until
White takes over, is working past her expired term and can only
stay until the end of the year.
Paredes, a Republican, is facing the end of his term this