Senate confirms Mary Jo White as SEC chairman by voice vote

Former prosecutor succeeds Elisse Walter, who remains a commissioner

Apr 8, 2013 @ 4:15 pm

By Mark Schoeff Jr.

The Senate confirmed Mary Jo White as chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission today.

In one of its first actions since returning from a two-week Easter recess, the chamber approved Ms. White by a voice vote.

She could start in her new job as early as Tuesday, pending the completion of Senate and White House paperwork, according to SEC spokesman John Nester. It's not clear when she'll make her first public appearance as the commission's new chairman.

The former U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York and past head of the litigation department of Debevoise & Plimpton LLC has extensive experience in both prosecuting white-collar crimes, and defending Wall Street firms and officials who have run afoul of securities laws.

She sailed through a Senate Banking Committee hearing in March, convincing lawmakers that her work at the high-profile law firm would not create conflicts of interest that would undermine her ability to run the agency. The committee approved her nomination 21-1, leading to today's unanimous-consent approval by the full Senate.

“The fact that Mary Jo White received such overwhelming support bodes well for her tenure,” said Neil Simon, vice president for government relations at the Investment Adviser Association.

One of the reasons that Ms. White garnered the support of Republicans is that she assured Sen. Mike Crapo, R-Idaho and top-ranking Republican on the banking panel, that she would make sure the SEC reviews a cost-benefit analysis of a potential uniform-fiduciary-duty rule for retail investment advice before deciding whether to proceed to rule making.

It was the only time during the hearing that she addressed investment-advice regulation.

“We look forward to sitting down with her in the near future to discuss a range of issues important to investment advisers,” Mr. Simon said.

Ms. White takes over for Elisse Walter as SEC chairman. Ms. Walter was designated chairman by President Barack Obama to succeed Mary Schapiro, when Ms. Schapiro left the agency in December. Ms. Walter's term as an SEC commissioner has expired, but she can remain on the commission until the end of the year. It's not clear how long she will stay.

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