Securities Law

For the first time, a former prosecutor is tapped to lead the SEC

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Former U.S. Attorney Mary Jo White has been nominated to lead the Securities and Exchange Commission in a move thought to presage tough enforcement at the agency.

White is the first former prosecutor chosen to lead the SEC, report the Wall Street Journal (sub. req.) and the National Law Journal. President Obama announced the nomination on Thursday. “You don’t want to mess with Mary Jo,” he said.

White is currently a partner at Debevoise & Plimpton, where she has represented companies that have wrangled with the SEC, the Wall Street Journal says. Ethics rules would bar her from working for two years on some matters involving her former firm or clients. White’s husband, John White, is a partner at Cravath Swaine & Moore, and that could spur her recusal when the firm represents a client before the SEC. John White oversaw the SEC’s division of corporation finance from 2006 to 2008, according to the New York Times DealBook story on the nomination.

New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman was among those praising Mary Jo White’s nomination. “She is a tough, experienced prosecutor, which is exactly what the SEC needs right now to restore investor confidence,” Schneiderman said in a statement.

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