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Striking Out With Mary Jo White


Mary Jo White, a former prosecutor and defense lawyer, is sometimes referred to as Attila the Hun by her peers.

Yet, President Barack Obama has picked the white collar lawyer to fill the void left by former Securities and Exchange Commission Chairman Mary Schapiro.

"Mary Jo White has decades of experience cracking down on white-collar criminals and bringing mobsters and terrorists to justice,'' President Obama said in his weekly radio address. ''At the SEC, she will help complete the task of reforming Wall Street and keep going after irresponsible behavior in the financial industry so that taxpayers don't pay the price."

White even has the endorsement of Paul Schott Stevens, the president and chief executive of the Investment Company Institute, who said White "has a record of extraordinary accomplishment as leader of the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York for nine years, chair of Debevoise & Plimpton's litigation department, and a director of the NASDAQ Stock Exchange."

A good fit? Maybe not.

Andrew Sorkin, editor-at-large of The New York Times' DealBook, noted that White was involved in the investigation, or lack thereof, of John Mack, former chief executive officer and chairman of the Board at Morgan Stanley, who was accused by former SEC investigator Gary Aguirre of insider trading in October 2006.

White worked for the board of Morgan Stanley at the time and made an impromptu call to Linda Thomsen, then the commission's head of enforcement, to find out whether Mack was being implicated. He ultimately wasn't and Aquirre was fired from his position at the SEC.

White has represented Kenneth Lewis, former chief executive officer of Bank of America, when he was sued by then New York attorney general Andrew Cuomo over accusations of defrauding investors in the bank's acquisition of Merrill Lynch.

Last September, Bank of America announced that it agreed to pay $2.4 billion to settle the lawsuit.

The financial industry may applaud the selection of White as one of its own. But the SEC is supposed to work in the interest of mom and pop investors. The folks who put their life savings into mutual funds.

President Obama may have swung at that ball. But missed.


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