Obama Picks Mary Jo White to Lead SEC

President Obama with Mary Jo White and Richard Cordray.
Source: Whitehouse.gov
President Obama with Mary Jo White and Richard Cordray.

President Barack Obama nominated Mary Jo White to lead the Securities and Exchange Commission on Thursday, tapping an attorney with broad experience in prosecuting white-collar crimes to lead an agency that has a central role in implementing Wall Street reform

Noting her role in the convictions of mob boss John Gotti and terrorists who bombed the World Trade Center and two U.S. embassies in Africa, Obama said: "You don't want to mess with Mary Jo."

"As one former SEC chairman said, 'Mary Jo doesn't intimidate easily,'" Obama said.

At the event, Obama also renominated Richard Cordray as head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. The president used a recess appointment last year to circumvent Congress and install Cordray as head of the bureau. That appointment expires at the end of this year.

Obama urged the Senate to quickly confirm the nominees.

White spent nearly a decade as the U.S. attorney in Manhattan, building a reputation as a tough prosecutor with an expertise in pursuing white collar crimes and complex securities and financial fraud cases. White House officials say that experience makes her well positioned to implement Obama's Wall Street reform legislation.

If confirmed, White would take over the helm at the SEC from Elisse Walter, who is serving out the rest of former SEC chair Mary Schapiro's term. Schapiro resigned in December.

Cordray has run the consumer bureau since last year, when Obama used a recess appointment to install him in the job. Senate Republicans had opposed Cordray, as well as the concept of the consumer bureau.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., conceived of the idea of a consumer protection bureau. Obama considered naming her to lead the bureau, but her nomination would likely have run into deep opposition on Capitol Hill.