We promise to move fast on implementing new rules, said SEC chairman nominee Mary Jo White in a Senate Banking Committee hearing Tuesday. But a priority will be to prioritize which rules get priority.
“The SEC needs to get the rules right, but it also needs to get them done,” White told the committee, demonstrating she has mastered the political art of saying nothing at all with a great deal of conviction. “To complete these legislative mandates expeditiously must be an immediate imperative for the SEC.”
With prompting from various senators, White noted that rules on money market funds, high-frequency trading, dark pools, credit rating agencies and derivatives were, in fact, all priorities (no one pointed out that making everything a priority in fact makes nothing a priority). “There’s a very high priority to figure it out,” White said of the high frequency trading and dark pools. “We need to know what’s happening.”
White did take the opporunity to tell the committee that her expertise as a prosecutor would help her in “connecting the dots” when it came to enforcement investigations.
“We didn’t get a clear look at where she’s heading. But we did get a sense on how important she views enforcement,” says Larry Stadulis, partner at Stradley Ronon. It is, of course, a priority.
During Tuesday's hearing, White said that she’s looking forward to reviewing the SEC’s enforcement division, adding that one of her priorities (another one!) if confirmed would be to strengthen the department.
“Strong enforcement is necessary for investor confidence and is essential to the integrity of our financial markets,” White says. “Proceeding aggressively against wrongdoers is not only the right thing to do, but it also will serve to deter the sharp and unlawful practices of others who must be made to think twice – and stop in their tracks – rather than risk discovery, pursuit, and punishment by the SEC.”
Further, White maintained that her past representation of major Wall Street institutions—including Bank of America and Morgan Stanley—would not impact her role as head of the SEC. When pressed on her work for the past decade by Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), White said that her experience as a white-collar defense attorney did not change her as a person.
“I didn’t embrace the thought policy of any of my clients,” White says. “If, in this instance, I'm confirmed, the American public will be my client and I will work zealously on behalf of it,” White says.
It will no doubt be a priority.