“Rather than rough her up, I expect the Republicans will try to push their agenda by getting her to publicly state positions that favor their pet issues,” said Dennis Keller, chief executive of Better Markets, a nonprofit group in Washington that promotes reform of the financial system. “The Democrats are the ones who will most likely raise the troubling issues and want them addressed.”
However, absent some unexpected revelation, the vigorous questioning is unlikely to derail White, 65, whose credentials have something to offer ideologues in both parties.
Lawmakers typically aligned with Wall Street interests are impressed with her work at Debevoise & Plimpton in New York, where she has built a lucrative career representing high-profile clients such as JPMorgan Chase, UBS AG and Morgan Stanley.
Kenneth Lewis, Bank of America’s former chief executive, and Rajat Gupta, the former Goldman Sachs board member convicted of insider trading, were also clients.
But it’s White’s public-sector work as a New York prosecutor that Obama emphasized when he nominated her as SEC chairman. For nearly nine years starting in 1993, White served as U.S. attorney in Manhattan, where she prosecuted several terrorists, including those involved in the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center.
Before taking that post, White helped put mobster John Gotti behind bars when she was the chief assistant U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of New York. Those are the achievements that have wowed investor advocates and their Senate supporters.
“Wall Street hopes she’ll be the accessible, sympathetic, engaging person they know from Debevoise & Plimpton,” said Bart Naylor, financial policy advocate at Congress Watch. “The investor protection community hopes she’ll be the zealous prosecutor who convicted terrorists and fraudsters.”
Any challenges White faces on Tuesday are likely to be overshadowed by those awaiting Richard Cordray, director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau for the past year.
Senate Republicans have blasted the sweeping regulatory powers granted to the newly formed consumer watchdog agency and blocked Cordray’s nomination in 2011. The president appointed him anyway when the Senate was in recess and renominated him in January when he nominated White, packaging the duo as Wall Street’s “top cops.”
Their confirmation hearing is set up as a double feature, with both of them scheduled to appear before the Senate banking committee for two hours, an arrangement that may take some of the heat off White — but not all of it.