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?
After 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.