显然这里仍然存在一个看法问题，即SEC在亟待解决的华尔街犯罪问题方面的无力表现。这原本是2009年由奥巴马任命的SEC主席玛丽•夏皮罗的职责所在。但她并没有很好地完成这项工作。的确，SEC对高盛（Goldman Sachs）的抵押债券（名为Abacus 2007-AC1）案开出了高达5.5亿美元的罚单，并对花旗集团（Citigroup）和摩根大通（JPMorgan Chase）的类似问题交易也做出罚金处理。此外，SEC还对Countrywide公司的安杰洛•莫兹罗处以2,250万美元的个人罚款，为华尔街史上最大个人罚单。
但是，那些都是例外。雷曼兄弟（Lehman Brothers）及美国国际集团（AIG）等公司并没有高管遭到起诉。法官杰德•拉可夫抨击了SEC让银行逃脱严厉惩罚的政策。此外，马特•泰比在《滚石》（Rolling Stone）杂志上援引SEC一位律师的话撰文称，SEC正在掩盖公司犯罪行为。
通常情况下，SEC主席要么来自监管机构，要么来自华尔街。过去十年，怀特一直在Debevoise ＆Plimpton律师行担任律师。她曾为肯•刘易斯辩护，后者被指控在担任美国银行（Bank of America）行长期间在收购美林（Merrill Lynch）这一交易上误导了投资者。此外，她所在的律师团队曾为高盛前董事拉雅•古普塔受到的内幕交易指控进行辩护。她曾任职于摩根大通（JPMorgan）及摩根士丹利（Morgan Stanley）董事会。【另注，怀特也曾为《财富》（Fortune）杂志母公司时代华纳（Time Warner）做过辩护，当时唐纳德•川普就时代华纳出版的书籍《王牌国度》（Trump Nation）提起诉讼。】
Mary Jo White, President Obama's nominee to be the next head of the Securities and Exchange Commission, is certainly a great choice for the SEC. The question is whether she is the right pick for the rest of us.
There clearly remains a perception issue that the SEC is weak on Wall Street crime that needs to be fixed. Mary Schapiro, appointed by Obama in 2009, was supposed to correct that. But she didn't quite get the job done. Yes, there was the $550 million fine against Goldman Sachs (GS) for constructing the ill-fated mortgage bond Abacus, and similar ones with Citigroup (C) and JPMorgan Chase (JPM). And the SEC got Countrywide's Angelo Mozilo to personally pay a $22.5 million fine, the largest by an individual in history.
But those were the exceptions. No executives were ever charged at Lehman Brothers or AIG (AIG). Judge Jed Radkoff bashed the SEC for its policy of allowing banks to get off with slaps on the wrist. And there was the Rolling Stone tale by Matt Taibbi of the SEC lawyer who said the SEC was covering up corporate crime.
White should be able to reinstate the SEC's image as a tough regulator. As United States attorney in New York, she pursued mob boss John Gotti and terrorists. She reportedly refused to sign off on President Clinton's pardon of oil trader Mark Rich, and briefly investigated it. What's more, KBW's Brian Gardner, who heads up the firm's Washington research, says White in the past has taken a limited view of what crimes corporations could be charged with. Meaning White is less likely to allow large corporations to swallow the blame for misconduct that could only have been committed by individuals. "We expect the SEC's investigations to become more aggressive but, at the same time, more thorough," Gradner wrote in a note to clients.
But is that what we really need at the SEC right now? The window for pursing crimes from the financial crisis is rapidly closing. And enforcement is only one part of what the SEC does. It also needs to regulate the market to make sure it's fair for everyone. High-frequency traders, for example, can probably breathe a sigh of relief, for now. Shapiro had been examining their turf, but this is not an area in which White has a lot of experience.
What we need now, it seems, is someone who can lay down the rules, still not finalized from Dodd-Frank, that will not just hopefully limit Wall Street malfeasance but its propensity for stupidity as well.
Typically, SEC chairmen have either come from the ranks of regulators or from Wall Street itself. White has spent the past decade at Debevoise & Plimpton. She defended Ken Lewis against allegations that he misled investors in the acquisition of Merrill Lynch when he was head of Bank of America. And she was part of the legal team that defended former Goldman board member Rajat Gupta against insider trading charges. She has worked for JPMorgan and the board of Morgan Stanley. (On another note, White also defended Fortune's parent company, Time Warner, in a suit filed by Donald Trump over a book it published, TrumpNation.)
The last person to go from Wall Street defense attorney to the head of the SEC was Harvey Pitt, and Pitt's tenure at the SEC was brief and mostly seen as a train wreck. (Pitt says White will make a great SEC head.)