Obama picks tough ex-New York attorney as next chair of the SEC

Elizabeth Fournier
PRESIDENT Obama yesterday nominated a politically independent ex-New York attorney as the next chair of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), the US financial watchdog that monitors the country’s securities markets.

Mary Jo White, currently head of law firm Debevoise & Plimpton’s litigation team, will succeed Elisse Walter, who stepped up last December when Mary Schapiro stepped down.

White, who is married to the SEC’s former head of corporation finance John White, was the first female attorney for the southern district of New York from 1993 to 2002, prosecuting high profile cases including mafia boss John Gotti and Ramzi Yousef, who was behind the 1993 World Trade Center bombing.

Though she has also defended Wall Street bankers, including former Bank of America chief executive Ken Lewis, White is seen as a tough cop, and will be involved in implementing the dozens of unfinished rules required by the 2010 Dodd-Frank Wall Street reform law.

"It’s a great honour to be nominated for this position, and I’m excited by the opportunity to serve the public in such an important capacity, said White. "It is not without mixed emotion, however, and if confirmed I will certainly miss working alongside my very talented colleagues at Debevoise for whom I have deep respect."

Debevoise & Plimpton's presiding partner Michael W Blair said: "All of us who know and work with Mary Jo know that her extraordinary intellect, energy and experience, combined with her bedrock integrity, will serve our country exceptionally well as she takes on the important responsibility of chairing the Securities and Exchange Commission."