SEC Chair White to Step Down
Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) Chair Mary Jo White, after nearly four years as the agency’s head, has announced that she intends to leave at the end of the Obama administration.
White, who became the 31st Chair of the SEC in April 2013, will be one of the Commission’s longest-serving Chairs, though her tenure was full of the partisan tensions that have become part and parcel of the debate around the development of a uniform fiduciary standard, and the implementation of Dodd-Frank.
Frustration with the agency’s pace on reforms recently resulted in a request
by Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) that President Obama use his unilateral authority to immediately designate another commissioner to replace White as SEC Chair, citing her refusal to develop a political spending disclosure rule and “repeated actions to undermine the agency’s mission of investor protection and the Administration’s priorities.”
In announcing her departure, White noted that under her leadership, the SEC advanced more than 50 significant rulemaking initiatives, including:
- Reforms to the money market fund industry and new disclosures and protections for mutual fund investors in a major initiative to strengthen regulation of the $67 trillion asset management industry
- Enhanced equity market structure oversight, including wide-ranging new controls on how key market participants handle technology and systems issues
- A framework for enhancing the effectiveness of corporate disclosure for investors
- New safeguards for the financial system and for investors in the more than $7 trillion security-based swap market
- New ways for smaller companies to raise capital needed to grow their businesses
- New post-crisis restrictions on proprietary trading and investments by broker-dealers and other financial institutions through the Volcker rule
- Enhancements to transparency and risk management for asset-backed securities, which were a significant contributor to the financial crisis
- Operating standards for the clearing agencies that stand at the center of our financial system
- Reforms to the regulation of credit rating agencies and how they address conflicts of interest that can harm investors
- First-ever regulatory framework for municipal advisors who are critical to the capital raising activities of thousands of local governments
- Modernized rules of practice for conducting administrative proceedings, including providing expanded rights of discovery
White also implemented the Commission’s first-ever policy to require admissions of wrongdoing in certain cases where heightened accountability and acceptance of responsibility is appropriate. Thus far, the Commission has required admissions from more than 70 defendants, including 44 entities and 29 individuals.
During White’s tenure, the SEC brought more than 2,850 enforcement actions, more than any other three-year period in the Commission’s history, and obtained judgments and orders totaling more than $13.4 billion in monetary sanctions. The SEC charged more than 3,300 companies and 2,700 individuals, including CEOs, CFOs and other senior corporate officers.