Obama sends strong signal, selects ex-prosecutor to head SEC

Mary Jo White, former U.S. attorney in Manhattan, was named by President Barack Obama to head the Securities and Exchange Commission.
By MARCY GORDON and JULIE PACE Published: January 25, 2013
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Under Schapiro, the SEC brought civil charges with record penalties against Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase and Citigroup, among others. But those settlements left top executives at the banks free from blame.

James Cox, a Duke University law professor and expert on the SEC, predicted White will push the SEC away from “being just a tollkeeper” that collects settlements and make it a forceful agency that brings meaningful sanctions against senior individuals.

“She has a high sense of the public purpose of the law,” Cox said. “You've got to change the culture of the SEC to the point where you're willing to say, `We're going to go after the individual.'”

In 2000, White led the prosecution of more than 100 people — including members of all five New York Mafia families — accused of strong-arming brokers and manipulating prices of penny stocks. The action was one of the biggest crackdowns on securities fraud in U.S. history at the time.

White's office also won a record $606 million in restitution from the securities arm of the Republic New York Corp. bank in 2001.