WASHINGTON – Mary Jo White, President Obamas choice to run the Securities and Exchange Commission, told lawmakers Tuesday that her work for Wall Street firms wont affect her ability to be a zealous advocate for investors.
The scope of any conflicts of interest is quite narrow and would mostly affect SEC enforcement cases, said White, 65, at a Senate Banking Committee hearing on her nomination. Her participation in writing regulations will be unaffected by her previous representation of clients such as JPMorgan Chase, Morgan Stanley, and UBS as a defense lawyer, she said.
The public investors should know I am their advocate, White said. As a U.S. attorney from 1993 to 2002, I was exceptionally aggressive against large institutions, CEOs and large executive types, she said.
White, who has said she would retire from New York-based Debevoise & Plimpton if shes confirmed, drew bipartisan support at the hearing before the Democrat-led panel. Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, said last week he wasnt ready to support White because of concerns over conflicts of interest.
While I will have recusals, as many nominees, mine are not out of the ordinary in scope, White said. In general, Im not recused from any SEC rulemaking or policy matters.
Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., trumpeted Whites record as a former U.S. attorney who prosecuted terrorists, mobsters and inside traders.
Her record leaves no doubt she will vigorously pursue the SECs enforcement agenda, Schumer said in a statement introducing her to the committee.
Whites testimony followed recent warnings from Attorney General Eric Holder that the size of the largest financial institutions make it difficult to fully punish them for wrongdoing.
She said in response to a question that the SEC considers the economic effect of penalties it seeks against companies, though those consequences arent considered a barrier to bringing a lawsuit.
At the SEC, there is no institution too big to charge, White said.