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Senate Committee Approves White to Run SEC

Nominee for Chairman of SEC Mary Jo White
Mary Jo White, a former U.S. attorney for the southern district of New York, said at a March 12 banking committee hearing on her nomination that that her work as a defense attorney “doesn’t mean I embrace the policy thoughts of any of my clients in particular.” Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg

March 19 (Bloomberg) -- The U.S. Senate Banking Committee approved Mary Jo White’s nomination to lead the Securities and Exchange Commission on a bipartisan vote, clearing her way to become the first ex-prosecutor to lead the agency.

The committee voted 21-1 to send White’s nomination to the full Senate with unanimous support from the Republican members. Sherrod Brown, an Ohio Democrat, was the sole dissenter.

The full Senate probably will vote this week on White’s appointment, according to a Senate aide who requested anonymity because the schedule hasn’t been set. If approved, she would serve the remaining 14 months of a term vacated by Mary Schapiro, who stepped down as SEC chairman in December. The term runs through June 5, 2014.

“Ms. White gave very clear commitments to pursue the SEC’s statutory mandates, which are to protect investors, to maintain fair and orderly and efficient markets, and to facilitate capital formation,” said Senator Mike Crapo, an Idaho Republican.

White’s skeptics have been Democrats such as Brown and Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, who wanted to know how her experience as a defense attorney for Wall Street banks would affect her regulatory philosophy. Her clients at Debevoise & Plimpton LLP included JPMorgan Chase & Co., Morgan Stanley, and UBS AG. She was paid $2.4 million in salary last year, according to her financial disclosure statement.

‘Very Aggressive’

“I am concerned about the Wall Street bias in this institution,” Brown told reporters after the vote. “She is very smart and very aggressive. I hope she proves me wrong that a person inside Wall Street can do the kind of job we need.”

White, 65, a former U.S. attorney for Manhattan, said at a March 12 Banking Committee hearing on her nomination that that her work as a defense attorney “doesn’t mean I embrace the policy thoughts of any of my clients in particular.”

Warren said in a statement after the vote that she hopes White’s career as a prosecutor will make her “a tough watchdog.” White’s “lack of track record on regulatory issues” is a cause for concern, Warren said.

President Barack Obama nominated White in January to serve out Schapiro’s term and fulfill a separate five-year term through June 5, 2019.

The banking panel didn’t vote on the five-year term because there wasn’t enough bipartisan support, according to a committee aide who requested anonymity because negotiations over nominations are private.

If the Senate vote doesn’t take place this week, White’s nomination would be delayed until at least the week of April 8, when senators return from a two-week recess.

To contact the reporter on this story: Dave Michaels in Washington at dmichaels5@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Maura Reynolds at mreynolds34@bloomberg.net

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