Mary Jo White, President Obama's nominee to become
Chairman of the SEC, testified before the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing
and Urban Affairs as part of the confirmation process. While some had
anticipated that the testimony might be elongated or contentious because of her
prominent Wall Street white collar practice, both her written testimony and the
questioning were brief.
Ms. White focused largely on the broad agenda she would
face as Chairman, making only a brief reference to her years in practice by
citing to her time as the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York
as a predicate to dating her admiration of the SEC. During that period she
became "a strong admirer of the expertise, independence, and commitment of the
Commission and its staff." She went on to emphasize the critical role of the
SEC as the primary regulator of the capital markets and as a strong advocate
for investors. Citing Dodd-Frank and the JOBS Act she stated that "the SEC's
importance and scope of responsibilities are greater than ever."
Chairmen Shapiro and Walter have shepherded the agency
through difficult times and the worst of the market crisis Ms. White noted. The
agency is making substantial progress and has taken significant steps to
"strengthen its examination and enforcement functions." At the same time
changing and evolving markets require constant monitoring and analysis. The
Chairman must take the long view, Ms. White told the Committee.
She then focused on three points before concluding:
is essential that the Commission finish "in as timely and smart a way as
possible" rule making under Dodd-Frank and the JOBS Act. It needs to be "right,
but it also needs to get . . . done." Critical to this is a "rigorous economic
analysis" which will ensure "effective and optimal solutions" that do not
unnecessarily burden or cause competitive harm.
will be a "high priority throughout my tenure . . ." The Committee was told. It
"must be bold and unrelenting. Investors and all market participants need to
know that the playing field of our markets is level and that all wrongdoers -
individual and institutional of whatever position or size - will be
aggressively and successfully pursued by the SEC." Aggressive enforcement 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."
Markets: Experts disagree
about the impact of high speed trading, dark pools, complex trading algorithms
and intricate new order types, according to Ms. White. What is critical here is
that "a sense of urgency [be] brought to addressing these issues to understand
their impact on investors and the quality of our markets so that the
appropriate regulatory responses can be made."
Noting that there are many other issues facing the SEC, Ms.
White concluded by telling the Committee that "[i]f confirmed, I would focus on
these and the many other challenges facing the SEC."
For more commentary on developing securities
issues, visit SEC Actions, a blog by Thomas
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