OUR THOUGHTS ON:

President Obama Nominates Mary Jo White to Chair SEC

Public Companies

By Charles Oshurak

On Thursday, January 24, 2013, in one of the first actions as part of his second term, President Obama nominated Mary Jo White, a former prosecutor from New York, to chair the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).

White’s resume includes her prosecution of Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman and nine fellow Muslim militants in connection with their plot to bomb the United Nations, World Trade Center and other New York City landmarks. The Manhattan U.S. Attorney's office headed by White turned to a little-used seditious conspiracy statute from the Civil War era to prosecute the sprawling terrorism cases and successfully prosecute former mob boss John Gotti.

President Obama once said of White, "You don't want to mess with Mary Jo," and has described her prosecution record "as a pretty good run." She would also be the first former prosecutor to head the SEC. Her impressive prosecution record is expected to overcome any scrutiny people may have about the brevity of her regulatory experience. This nomination is also seen as a response to criticism of the SEC that it hasn't been tough enough in overseeing the nation's securities laws. During Schapiro's tenure, the SEC reached major settlements with large Wall Street banks; however, Schapiro’s critics have argued that the corresponding penalties were too small. Other critic shave charged that executives were never held accountable for the actions of their organizations. Given her prosecution background, White could change that.

SEC observers expect that White and the SEC will focus their efforts on on a delayed JOBS Act rule, which is aimed at making it easier for firms to raise capital as well as the formation of stricter regulations for money-market mutual funds and the development of the so-called Volcker Rule, which would bar banks from making certain trades for their own profit.

If confirmed by the Senate, White will succeed Elisse Walter, who was appointed by President Obama to temporarily hold the position after Mary Schapiro stepped down on December 14, 2012.

For more information, please contact Charles A. Oshurak, Audit Advisory Senior Manager from Schneider Downs' SEC practice.

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