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Mary Jo White confirmed by Senate as SEC chairwoman

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The United States Senate confirmed Mary Jo White (left) Monday as the next chairwoman of the Securities and Exchange Commission, approving the former federal prosecutor in a unanimous-consent vote.

She will succeed Elisse Walter, who was named by President Barack Obama to succeed Mary Schapiro in December. White is expected to be sworn in as chairwoman within a few days.

White, 65, gained fame during her 10 years as a U.S. attorney in the Southern District of New York for her prosecutions of organized crime figures and terrorist suspects.

Tim Johnson, chairman of the Senate Banking Committee, said in a statement after White’s confirmation that “the SEC needs a strong leader in place as it works to implement Wall Street Reform, and that is exactly what the commission is getting with Mary Jo White.” Said o: “After meeting her, listening to her testimony, and closely reviewing her qualifications, it came as no surprise that she received such overwhelming bipartisan support for her confirmation. I look forward to working with her as the SEC addresses a range of rules and policy issues that include the Volcker Rule, derivatives, credit rating agencies, hedge funds, standards for broker-dealers and investment advisers, corporate disclosures, market structure and money market funds to name just a few.”

As for her priorities at the agency, White said during her March confirmation hearing that her top priority would be to finish rulemaking mandates under the Dodd-Frank and JOBS Act “in as timely and smart a way as possible.” 

In that hearing before the Senate Banking Committee, White told senators that if confirmed, one of her areas of “focus” as chairwoman would be regulating the conduct of broker-dealers and investment advisors when giving retail investment advice. She also told the ranking minority member on the panel, Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, that she would review comments that the SEC received on a March 1 request before releasing a rule imposing a fiduciary standard on all advice givers. That request for comments asked for information on the “potential regulatory costs” that such a rule would place on broker-dealers and RIAs.

The Banking Committee approved her nomination on March 19 by a vote of 21-1.

As for her other priorities, White’s prepared testimony before the Senate panel meeting listed the following:

  • Continue “rigorous economic analysis” to inform and guide commission rules.  
  • Strengthen the enforcement function of the SEC, so that it is “fair, but it also must be bold and unrelenting.”  
  • Fully understand “all aspects of today’s high-speed, high-tech and dispersed marketplace so that it can be wisely and optimally regulated, which means without undue cost and without undermining its vitality.”  
  • Focus on money-market funds, private fund advisers, credit rating agencies and clearing agencies.

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