The head of the Securities and Exchange Commission, Mary Jo White, will leave office at the end of the Obama administration, the agency said Monday. White, a former federal prosecutor and private securities lawyer, was appointed by President Barack Obama in February 2013. Her term doesn’t end until 2019. President-elect Donald Trump is due to take office Jan. 20 and likely will name his own choice to head the market watchdog agency in the near future. White, an Independent, has had to forge consensus amid sometime robust opposition from the two Republicans on the five-member commission. Republicans criticized her for what they saw as overreach by the agency that could stifle financial innovation and economic growth.
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Some Democrats, meanwhile, accused her of not being tough enough on Wall Street and top executives who may have contributed to the 2008 financial crisis.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren, the liberal Democratic leader who is a fiery critic of Wall Street, last month called on Obama to replace White over the issue of requiring publicly traded corporations to more fully disclose their political spending.
Under questioning at a Senate hearing, White wouldn’t commit to getting the commission to adopt such a rule. She cited a Republican amendment to a catch-all government spending bill that prohibits the SEC from doing so.
Warren and several other Democratic senators were angered by White’s position and by waffling on the issue by two long-pending Obama nominees to fill vacancies on the SEC. They blocked the nominations of the two candidates, a Democrat and a Republican. As a result, the five-member SEC has been down two since December 2015. The positions will likely be filled by Trump nominees.
In its announcement Monday, the SEC noted a number of rules and policies that White shepherded during her tenure, including regulations under the landmark Dodd-Frank financial-reforms law enacted in response to the crisis. Also included were changes to shore up the stability of the money-market fund industry and new protections for mutual fund investors.
The SEC also required financial firms that sell securities backed by mortgages or auto loans, like the kind that fueled the crisis, to give investors details on borrowers’ credit records and income.
“My duty has been to ensure that the (SEC) implemented strong investor and market protections, and to establish an enduring foundation for future progress in the most critical areas,” White said in a statement. “Thanks to the hard work and dedication of the SEC’s staff, we have accomplished both.”