President Barack Obama has chosen Elisse Walter, one of five members of the Securities and Exchange Commission, to become chairman of the agency. Chairman Mary Schapiro will leave next month after a tumultuous tenure in which she helped lead the government’s regulatory response to the 2008 financial crisis.
Walter will take over at a critical time for the SEC, which is finalizing new rules in response to the 2008 financial crisis. She can serve through 2013 without Senate approval because she’s already been confirmed to the commission.
Obama will need to nominate a permanent successor before Walter’s term ends. News reports have suggested that Mary John Miller, a top Treasury Department official, is among those mentioned as a potential candidate.
Walter, who is a Democrat, was appointed to the SEC in 2008 by President George W. Bush. Earlier, she was a senior official at the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, the securities industry’s self-policing organization. She served under Schapiro at FINRA, who led the organization before becoming SEC chairman in January 2009.
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“I’m confident that Elisse’s years of experience will serve her well in her new position, and I’m grateful she has agreed to help lead the agency,” Obama said in a statement.
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Schapiro will leave the SEC on Dec. 14. She was appointed by Obama in the midst of the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression. She also took over after the agency failed to detect the Bernard Madoff Ponzi scheme.
Schapiro, 57, is credited with helping reshape the SEC after it was accused of failing to detect reckless investments by many of Wall Street’s largest financial institutions before the crisis. And she led an agency that brought civil charges against the nation’s largest banks.
In a statement Monday, Obama said, “The SEC is stronger and our financial system is safer and better able to serve the American people — thanks in large part to Mary’s hard work.”
But critics argued that Schapiro failed to act aggressively to charge leading individuals at those banks who may have contributed to the crisis. Consumer advocates questioned Schapiro’s appointment because she had led FINRA.