Obama Taps Former Prosecutor to Head SEC

Mary Jo White, a former federal prosecutor, was nominated by President Obama to head the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).

Since Mary L. Schapiro stepped down in December, SEC Commissioner Elisse Walter has filled in as acting head. (See “SEC Chairman Schapiro to Step Down.”) Obama appointed Schapiro as chair after the infamous Bernard Madoff investment scandal, which many attribute to missed opportunities on the part of the agency.

White was the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York. She is the only woman to hold the top position in that office, which enforces federal criminal and civil laws.

Under White’s leadership, New York successfully investigated and prosecuted numerous cases of national and international significance. Some cases involved large-scale white collar and complex securities and financial institution fraud, as well as corporate criminal liability, international terrorism, international money laundering, police and other public official corruption, organized crime, civil rights, environmental law violations, narcotics trafficking and major racketeering cases that dismantled the largest, most violent gangs in New York City.

White is chair of the litigation department at the New York law firm Debevoise & Plimpton LLP, where her practice concentrates on internal investigations and defense of companies and individuals accused by the government of white collar corporate crime or SEC and civil securities law violations, and on other major business litigation disputes and crises. For her criminal work, she leads a Debevoise team that includes 11 former assistant U.S. attorneys with extensive experience in major commercial investigations and prosecutions.

White rejoined Debevoise in 2002, and became chair of the firm’s over 225 lawyer litigation department. She is a Fellow in the American College of Trial Lawyers and the International College of Trial Lawyers. White is the recipient of numerous awards and is regularly ranked as a leading lawyer by directories that evaluate law firms. White has served as a director of the Nasdaq Stock Exchange. She is also a member of the Council on Foreign Relations.

The White House announced the nomination Thursday at 2:30 p.m.