SEC nominee Mary Jo White to take hard line on Wall Street

Carolyn Kaster/AP - President Barack Obama announced Jan. 24 that he would nominate Mary Jo White, right, to lead the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), and re-nominate Richard Cordray, left, to lead the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

Mary Jo White pledges a get-tough-on-Wall Street approach and swift action on pending regulations if confirmed as head of the Securities and Exchange Commission, according to testimony she plans to deliver at her Senate confirmation hearing Tuesday.

Since President Obama nominated White in January, some critics have questioned her resolve to crack down on Wall Street firms after years of defending them as a white-collar lawyer. Others have balked at her lack of regulatory experience.

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White plans to tackle both issues head-on before fielding questions from lawmakers on the Senate banking committee. In prepared remarks, White stressed her nearly nine years as a New York prosecutor going after terrorists and white-collar criminals. She made no mention of her white-collar defense work during the past decade at Debevoise & Plimpton.

“It will be a high priority throughout my tenure to further strengthen the enforcement function of the SEC — it must be fair, but it also must be bold and unrelenting,” White said.

White also acknowledged the need to finish “in as timely and smart a way as possible” the regulations needed to put in place the Dodd-Frank financial overhaul measure and the Jobs Act, which seeks to help small businesses raise capital. The SEC has been blasted for taking far too long to churn out the mandated regulations.

“The SEC needs to get the rules right, but it also needs to get them done,” White said.

The markets, which have struggled with high-profile technical glitches in recent years, also received mention. White said the agency needs to better understand high-speed trading and trades that take place in private venues in order to figure out the appropriate regulatory response.

White is scheduled appear before the committee with Richard Cordray, who has been renominated to head the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. The committee has yet to announce when it will vote on the nominees, who also need the approval of the full Senate.

The general concensus is that White will be vigorously questioned by the committee, but she’s also expected to be confirmed. For weeks White has made the rounds on Capitol Hill to woo senators, and the response has been mostly positive on both sides of the aisle.

Sen. Tim Johnson (D-S.D.), who heads the banking committee, had an “informative and candid” meeting with White and was “impressed with her in-depth knowledge of the issues,” Sean Oblack, a spokesman for Johnson, said in a statment.

 
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