This week, President Barack Obama nominated former U.S. attorney Mary Jo White to be chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”). If confirmed by the Senate, White would take over the helm at the SEC from Elisse Walter, who is serving out the rest of former SEC chair Mary Schapiro’s term – who resigned last November.
Ms. White served as the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York from 1993 to 2002. The first woman to serve in that role, she built a reputation as a tough prosecutor with an expertise in pursuing white collar crimes and complex securities and financial fraud cases. White currently serves as a top lawyer at Debevoise & Plimpton LLP, where she heads the litigation department and represents individuals and corporations accused of white-collar crimes and securities-law violations. It is believed that this experience will make her an ideal candidate to implement Obama’s Wall Street reform legislation.
White’s appointment represents a shift for the top position where she would be the first prosecutor to head the 79-year-old SEC. Traditionally, most SEC chairmen have come from Wall Street or the ranks of private securities lawyers. The choice of White is likely intended to bolster the agency’s enforcement profile in the aftermath of the financial crisis.
Coming from an enforcement background, White is expected to give high priority to expanding the enforcement efforts of the SEC.
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