Mary Jo White’s potential conflicts in serving as our next SEC chairman are now dominating the nomination discussion, focusing specifically on the revolving door between public service and private practice.
From our perspective, the revolving door at the SEC and other key financial regulators in D.C. seems to have gone into reverse with the nomination of White, who would be the first former prosecutor to lead the U.S. securities watchdog. It is actually refreshing to see the door rotating in favor of significant professional experience and someone motivated by public service.
Too many people seem to use regulatory and government experience early in their careers as a launching pad for big pay on Wall Street or with large law firms. White’s nomination is not the first from private legal practice and no doubt will bring potential conflicts, given that she spent the past 10 years representing Wall Street. But we expect her to both smartly and expertly navigate those conflicts while closely watched and scrutinized under the glaring political spotlight.
Moreover, there are such vastly important policy and leadership issues facing the SEC — Dodd-Frank implementation, budget shortfalls, and technology needs — that we see great opportunity for her to maneuver without running into conflicts. Addressing these critical matters is by far the most important contribution that she, or any chairman, could make, and we are excited and hopeful she will spend her days grappling with the future of this important agency. She is clearly tough and experienced, and only time will tell if that is the right combination for leading today’s SEC. But we like her chances.
Photo credit: Associated Press