Obama proposes Wall Street defense lawyer to police Wall Street

President Obama has chosen Mary Jo White to head the SEC.  From the New Yorker piece I quote below:

 It seems a bit peculiar for a President who has repeatedly pledged to crack down on Wall Street wrongdoing to pick as one of his top financial cops a figure who has spent much of the last decade defending senior bankers….

You think?  So can we finally put the “did you hear how progressive President Obama’s inauguration speech was?” joke to rest now?

Plenty of Democrats held out hope and started to believe again that the Obama of their dreams was back, that this time he would really promote a liberal agenda following his impressive speech.

As wonderful as the speech was, it was just a speech. It’s great that he’s come around on certain issues and sure, if he follows through with immigration reform, that too is solid progress. However, actions are always much more important, and concerning Wall Street and the economy, Obama’s actions once again show that he believes in the same old agenda that got us into this mess. The revolving door between Washington and Wall Street is alive and well, thank you very much. And that “change” that we all fell in love with? Yeah, not so much.

For those still wondering why nobody went to jail from Wall Street for destroying the economy, here you go.  In case you missed every other example of the revolving door and the same old politics of usual under Obama. If only this was the first time Obama chose to put people like this in positions of power in his administration.

What do you call someone who falls for the same bait-and-switch trick over and over?

New Yorker:

Mary Jo White, SECAfter leaving the U.S. Attorney’s office, where she prosecuted plenty of mobsters and alleged terrorists but relatively few Wall Street wrongdoers, White joined the law firm of Debevoise & Plimpton and built up a lucrative practice defending, among others, senior Wall Street executives. Her clients included Kenneth Lewis, the former chairman and chief executive of Bank of America, and John Mack, who held the top job at Morgan Stanley. Partly because of worries about going up against high-priced lawyers like White, the federal government has yet to bring criminal charges against a single senior Wall Street figure for the disastrous lending and underwriting practices that led to the financial crisis. While everybody deserves a proper legal defense, even overpaid Wall Street C.E.O.s, it seems a bit peculiar for a President who has repeatedly pledged to crack down on Wall Street wrongdoing to pick as one of his top financial cops a figure who has spent much of the last decade defending senior bankers….

One of the lessons of the financial crisis was that regulators at many government agencies, not just the S.E.C., had effectively been captured by Wall Street. With the heads of the agencies more interested in hobnobbing with top bankers than challenging them, the grunts in the enforcement divisions had little encouragement or incentive to try to bring big cases. White sounds like more of a cop than a glad-hander. But we’ll have to take it on trust that she won’t be hamstrung by the fact that, for the past ten years, she and her law firm have been taking hefty retainers from some of the banks she would be in charge of regulating. If she were a Republican and President Bush had nominated her, I think the media reaction would have been rather different.

Keep in mind that White already has deep links into Wall Street, including defending former Bank of America CEO Ken Lewis.

While it’s an improvement over his previous high level appointments that were all men, White is simply a bad choice for the SEC and it sends out a signal (again) that Obama remains uninterested in holding Wall Street accountable. But of course, we knew this from the beginning of his first administration when he showed a lack of interest in holding Wall Street powers accountable for their destructive actions, just like George Bush.


An American in Paris, France. BA in History & Political Science from Ohio State. Provided consulting services to US software startups, launching new business overseas that have both IPO’d and sold to well-known global software companies. Currently launching a new cloud-based startup. Full bio here.

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  • http://www.facebook.com/jacob.wadsworth.961 Jacob Wadsworth

    What he can do this time still remains to be seen. It has just been a few months since he was re-elected as President of the United States. He has so many promising propaganda but I hope that it was not all talk. He needs to prove something here because millions of Americans trusted him. – http://www.lorelawoffice.com/

  • jomicur

    And how would those be different in this case?

  • coltergeist

    She was a federal prosecutor before that. I am not that exercised about the pick. The statute of limitations may have already passed on a lot of the crimes at this point anyway. The time to strike, was when the iron was hot in 2008-2009. Very disappointing, but Mary Jo White was a good prosecutor in her day.

  • DonS

    yuuum, Kool Aid

  • Hue-Man

    The problem remains that the Department of Justice hasn’t and won’t bring criminal prosecutions against the Wall Street crooksters. The SEC has been co-opted by the financial services industry for decades so her appointment is less important than the DoJ not doing its job. She’ll do just fine at congressional hearings and organizing her underlings as they get trained for their “real” jobs in banking or finance or SEC-specialist law firms.

    Here’s wiki’s list of SEC actions 2009-2012 – jail time is the rare exception and the hundreds of millions or billions in fines are “the cost of doing business” compared to what they got away with. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/U.S._Securities_and_Exchange_Commission#List_of_major_SEC_enforcement_actions_2009-2012

  • http://adgitadiaries.com/ karmanot

    No, the question is not whether she is a good lawyer , she’s in the top tier of litigators in the nation. The question is: will she follow in the mode of say, the Attorney General, and defend the criminality of Wall Street by not investigating and prosecuting. Answer: She won’t.

  • ssrock64

    I actually think this could end up being a good thing. She can obviously make more money in her former job, so it seems that she’s had some change of heart. And because of her former position, she knows all the tricks that they employ to avoid regulation applying to them.

  • http://adgitadiaries.com/ karmanot

    Surprise, surprise

  • Mike_in_the_Tundra

    That’s a great analogy, but it’s something we all knew. Some don’t want to admit they know, because we keep thinking he was the lesser of two evils – in 2008 and 2012. Rachel Maddow covered Ms. White’s nomination very well last night. There may be a very slight possibility that she will use her insider knowledge of the banking boyz to zap them. Sort of like a female praying (perhaps preying) mantis. I can dream, can’t I? Do I sound like the guy with a bad boyfriend?

  • just saying…

    there are no louis brandeises practicing law anymore. i work in a very large national firm with a similar culture and similar clientele as debevois & plimpton–you don’t get to the level at a firm like this where you are allowed to represent anyone, unless you drink the cool aid and love the way it tastes. lawyers charging $1000 an hour or more, don’t sympathize with us “takers.” and SEC appointments aren’t for life…i guaranty ms.white is ever mindful of who will butter her bread when her tenure there is up, and she’s not stupid enough to bite the that hand that does the buttering.

  • it’s milk for free honey child

    obama is the bad boyfriend who’s just not that into progressives and democrats, except when he needs a late night booty call or a ride or some money or a job…just like all those deluded girls and boys who keep thinking, despite everything they’ve been through and what all their friends keep telling them, that they aren’t just the “can’t find anything better at the moment” stand ins for their bad “boy friends,” progressives and democrats are deluded and pathetic in their unwavering hope that “he really does love us.”

    i never understood why any progressive or democrat believed that in his second, term limited, go round as president he would be more motivated to be more progressive and just than he was in his first term, when he actually needed us to keep his job. obama is young, and has become accustom to being wealthy–where else is he going to find a job that can give him the life he’s become accustomed too, after he’s out on the street come january 2016, other wall street and the plutocracy?

    i’ll give this to republicans, they are the doting boyfriend, forever desperately trying to win the love of their most bat shit crazy, racist, fascist, abusive fringe–they have that going for them at least, and in a representative democracy, isn’t that what those who are supposed to represent their supporters are supposed to do? why even have parties, supposedly aligned with opposing ideologies and values, if not? think where this country might be, if the democrats used their times in power to court the far left progressive fringe of the party, like the republicans do…

  • http://www.rebeccamorn.com/mind BeccaM

    I feel like a broken record. Or a Sybil.

    Actions, not words — that’s what matters with this president and his administration. While there are plenty of people who say what they mean and mean what they say, this guy isn’t one of ‘em. We live now in an era of government of the plutocratic oligarchs, by the plutocratic oligarchs, for the plutocratic oligarchs.

  • FunMe

    Wow. They really have no shame. The Obama administration is basically throwing the finger at the 99% and saying he will continue to DEFEND Wall Street by bring their defense attorney. Disgusting!

  • Indigo

    You elect a Blue Dog president, you get Blue Dog presidential decisions. It’s that easy to understand. The important benefit here is that we’re not getting LDS decisions in high places.

  • Bill_Perdue

    “An honest politician is one who, when he is bought, will stay bought.”

  • nicho

    No, the question is whether she’s in the tank for Wall Street. She is. She has obstructed investigations into the crimes of the banksters.

    http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/blogs/taibblog/choice-of-mary-jo-white-to-head-sec-puts-fox-in-charge-of-hen-house-20130125

  • Naja pallida

    White has done some prosecutions of financial crimes while US Attorney, but most of which were tied to organized crime. She did go after Republic New York Securities Corp. when they were overrating investments to hide their losses for investing in a Ponzi scheme by Martin Armstrong – who was convicted a couple years earlier, which resulted in the highest restitution payout ever paid for such a thing at the time, some ~600 million. Of course, the financial damage to investors was much higher than the restitution pay out.

    I guess the question is, how much has her decade away from prosecuting, to do the opposite, corrupted her?

  • jomicur

    With respect, the real question is whether she’ll bring the same passion to prosecuting the Wall St. Gang that she brought to defending them. And there is more than room for reasonable doubt. How many mafia lawyers have turned into aggressive prosecutors of the mob?

  • jomicur

    So this is the new, liberal Obama, the “real Obama” all the O’bots kept telling us we’d see after the election? Oh well, I guess he had to do something to counteract Warren getting elected to the senate.

  • Naja pallida

    You may be right. With some people, it is about the law, not who they are defending or prosecuting, but historical precedent doesn’t bode well for this appointment. The SEC board needs a chairman with a strong hand, and a solid record of not taking crap from special interests. Not defending special interests from anyone who does want to stand up to them.

    As I’ve said about several of Obama’s appointments: Really? There was no better choice?

  • wtf2

    Obama aiding and abetting the massive crimes of Wall Street. How is that news?

  • Guest

    The question is whether she’s a good lawyer or not. Your argument would have kept Louis Brandeis off the Supreme Court.

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