Latest Obama Appointee—SEC Chief—Is Third Lawyer Named in Two Days
Posted Dec 18, 2008 7:03 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss
Barack Obama’s three latest appointees to top jobs in his administration are all lawyers. The latest is Mary Schapiro, chosen to head the Securities and Exchange Commission.
Schapiro currently heads the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, a self-regulatory body for the securities industry, Reuters reports. She has also served as an SEC commissioner and chairwoman of the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission. Her appointment is expected to be announced today.
On Wednesday, Obama appointed former Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack as agriculture secretary and Colorado Sen. Ken Salazar as interior secretary. Vilsack is currently of counsel in Dorsey & Whitney’s trial group. Salazar is former attorney general of Colorado and was at one time a water rights lawyer, Time magazine reports.
Schapiro has said she decided to be a regulator as a law student, when silver prices rose due to claimed market manipulation, the Wall Street Journal reports (sub. req.). Schapiro is a law graduate of George Washington University, according to the Associated Press. She began her career in 1980 as a trial lawyer for the Commodity Futures Trading Commission in a manipulation and trade practice investigations unit.
Schapiro is considered “an effective, if somewhat low-key, administrator,” the Associated Press reports in a separate story. Her appointment comes as the SEC faces criticism for its oversight of Wall Street investment banks and its failure to root out alleged wrongdoing by Bernard Madoff, now accused of cheating investors out of $50 billion.
Some question whether Schapiro will be strong enough to revamp the agency, according to the Wall Street Journal. In 2001 she appointed Bernard Madoff's son Mark Madoff to a committee that reviews decisions in FINRA disciplinary proceedings. But she oversaw a 2005 probe of gift-giving and entertainment on Wall Street that led to many charges, the newspaper says.
Updated at 12:06 p.m. to correctly indicate that Schapiro appointed Mark Madoff to a FINRA committee.