Obama to nominate former prosecutor to lead SEC


WASHINGTON – President Obama will nominate Mary Jo White, a former prosecutor and one-time director of the Nasdaq stock exchange, to lead the Securities and Exchange Commission, a White House official said Thursday.

Obama plans to make the announcement Thursday afternoon at the White House.

The president also will renominate Richard Cordray to continue leading the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the official said.

The agencies are two of the country’s top watchdogs for the financial industry. White would be the permanent replacement for Mary Schapiro, who stepped down last month. Obama elevated SEC Commissioner Elisse Walter to the chairwoman’s position, but that move was seen as temporary.

White was the first woman to serve as U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, which handles Wall Street cases, as well as other high-profile prosecutions. She served in the position for nearly a decade before stepping down in 2002. She was the lead prosecutor for the individuals accused in the first World Trade Center bombing in 1993.

Dennis Kelleher, president of Better Markets, a public interest group that supports tougher financial regulations, praised the decision to nominate a former prosecutor to head the SEC.

“Wall Street is a high crime area and Mary Jo White brings the right skill set to restore the rule of law on Wall Street,” he said.

Cordray’s current appointment is set to expire at the end of the year, and likely will trigger a battle with Senate Republicans.

He was placed at the helm of the agency a year ago in a controversial recess appointment after Republicans vowed to block anyone picked to head the agency unless changes were made to reduce its power. The consumer bureau was created by the 2010 overhaul of financial regulations and Republicans have complained that it concentrates too much power in a single director.

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