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Top white-collar crime prosecutor to lead SEC

Published on NewsOK Modified: January 24, 2013 at 2:31 pm •  Published: January 24, 2013
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She led the prosecution of Gotti when she was acting U.S. attorney in Brooklyn in 1992. Gotti died in prison in 2002.

If confirmed by the Senate, White would be the first prosecutor to head the 79-year-old SEC. Most SEC chairmen have come from Wall Street or the ranks of private securities lawyers. The choice of White is likely intended to bolster the agency's enforcement profile in the aftermath of the financial crisis.

White's background differs sharply from that of Schapiro, who guided the agency in the four years after the crisis. Schapiro worked at the Commodity Futures Trading Commission and the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, the securities industry's self-policing organization. Some consumer advocates have said Schapiro's experience as CEO of FINRA made her more likely to seek compromise and less likely to aggressively pursue misconduct.

During Shapiro's tenure, the SEC reached major settlements with the biggest banks on Wall Street, including Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase and Citibank. But critics said the penalties were small compared with the banks' revenues. And they complained that no senior executives were held accountable.

White would be expected to give high priority to expanding the enforcement efforts.

At the same time, much of the pressing work facing the agency involves writing new rules. The SEC is seeking stricter rules for money-market mutual funds and must get into shape the so-called Volcker Rule, which would bar banks from making certain trades for their own profit.

As head of litigators at Debevoise & Plimpton, White has represented a number of financial institutions likely to have crossed swords with the SEC in enforcement cases. Her clients also included former Bank of America CEO Ken Lewis, whom she represented in a 2010 civil lawsuit by then-New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo accusing Lewis of misleading shareholders in the bank's merger with Merrill Lynch.

White also represented the largest U.S. hospital chain, HCA, in the insider-trading investigations by the SEC and the Justice Department of former Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., whose family owned HCA. The investigations were closed in 2007 with no charges filed against Frist.

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Associated Press writers Marcy Gordon in Washington and Larry Neumeister in New York contributed to this report.