Mary Jo White

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This page is about the attorney and civil servant; for the Pennsylvania State Senator, see Mary Jo White (Pennsylvania politician).
Mary Jo White
File:Official portrait of Mary Jo White.jpg
Chairperson of the Securities and Exchange Commission
Assumed office
April 10, 2013
President Barack Obama
Preceded by Elisse Walter
Personal details
Born (1947-09-27) September 27, 1947 (age 72)
Kansas City, Missouri, U.S.
Political party Independent[1]
Spouse(s) John W. White
Alma mater College of William and Mary
The New School
Columbia University

Mary Jo White (born December 27, 1947) is the 31st and current Chairwoman of the Securities and Exchange Commission. She was the first woman to be United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, serving from 1993 to 2002.[2] On January 24, 2013, President Barack Obama nominated White to replace Elisse B. Walter as Chairwoman of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.[3] She was confirmed by the Senate on April 8, 2013 and was sworn into office on April 10, 2013.[4][5] As of 2014, she is listed as the 73rd most powerful woman in the world by Forbes.[6]

Life and career

White was born in Kansas City, Missouri, and grew up in McLean, Virginia. She received a B.A. from the College of William & Mary in 1970. She earned an M.A. in psychology in 1971 from The New School for Social Research[7] and a law degree from Columbia Law School in 1974,[2] where she was a Writing & Research Editor of the Columbia Law Review.

White became Acting United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York in December 1992, and in March 1993 was appointed by President Bill Clinton as U.S. Attorney for the Southern District. She is noted for having overseen prosecutions of John Gotti[clarification needed] and the terrorists responsible for the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, chief among them Ramzi Yousef.

After President Clinton's controversial last day presidential pardons, she was appointed by new Attorney General John Ashcroft to investigate Marc Rich's pardon.[2]

For 10 years, she was chair of the litigation department at Debevoise & Plimpton,[8] who's self-proclaimed "core practices" and expertise are focused on the success of Wall Street financial firms.[9] . The Huffington Post called her "a well-respected attorney who won high-profile cases against mobsters, terrorists and financial fraudsters over the course of nearly a decade as the U.S. attorney for Manhattan."[10]

It has been asserted in Rolling Stone magazine that, among other duties at Debevoise, White has used her influence and connections to protect certain Wall Street CEOs from prosecution,[11] including a notable case involving the firing of Gary J. Aguirre for investigations into the CEO of Morgan Stanley executive John J. Mack.

In 2013, White, as a lawyer for JSTOR, an original complainant in the prosecution of Aaron Swartz that changed their position against Swartz's prosecution because of steps Swartz had taken to appease JSTOR, she asked the lead prosecutor to drop the charges.[12]

When White started at the SEC in April 2013, most of the agency's enforcement cases from the 2008-2009 financial crisis were either settled or near completion, freeing up resources for other work.[13] In a shift for the agency, White announced in June 2013 the SEC would start demanding more admissions of misconduct as part of an enforcement settlement.[14] In an October 2013 speech, White announced a new SEC enforcement tactic practiced by neighborhood beat police to root out petty crime. In her speech, White cited a March 1982 Atlantic article, espousing law enforcement's Broken Windows concept that theorizes enforcing small, petty crimes - like smashed windows - can prevent bigger crimes. Focusing enforcement attention to these small crimes avoids breeding an environment of indifference to the rules, White said. During her tenure, White has had to recuse herself from some of the SEC's biggest enforcement cases as a result of her prior work at Debevoise and her husband, John W. White, a lawyer at Cravath, Swaine & Moore.[15] By February 2015 White had recused herself in about 50 cases setting up deadlock situations within the Commission and thus compromising the effectiveness of the SEC.[15]

Criticism of White's leadership at the SEC

On June 2, 2015 Sen. Elizabeth Warren wrote a letter to White indicating that her "leadership of the Commission has been extremely disappointing"[16] pointing out numerous shortcomings and failures during her tenure. Warren admonished that White failed to finalize certain Dodd-Frank rules, did not curb the use of waivers for companies that violated securities laws, allowed settlements without admission of guilt, and was too frequently recused because of her husband's activities.[16] In return, White argued that the agency had been effective and that Warren had mischaracterized her statements and the accomplishments of the agency.[17] The Massachusetts senator’s attack on White generated backlash from the White House, Congress, and Wall Street, with defenders calling her a tough but fair enforcer of the rules.[18]


  1. 2013 Speech to the 14th Annual A.A. Sommer, Jr. Corporate Securities and Financial Law Lecture, Fordham Law School SEC. (October 3, 2013). Retrieved December 14, 2014
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2001 CNN profile of Mary Jo White CNN. (February 6, 2001). Retrieved February 24, 2011
  3. Hallman, Ben (January 24, 2013). "Mary Jo White, Obama Pick to Head SEC". Retrieved 25 January 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. "Senate confirms White to head SEC". Retrieved 8 April 2013. Unknown parameter |deadurl= ignored (help)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>[dead link]
  5. Nominations of: Richard Cordray and Mary Jo White: Hearing before the Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs, United States Senate, One Hundred Thirteenth Congress, First Session, on Nominations of Richard Cordray, of Ohio, to be Director of the Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection; Mary Jo White, of New York, to be a Member of the Securities and Exchange Commission, March 12, 2013
  6. "The World's 100 Most Powerful Women". Forbes. Forbes. Retrieved 26 June 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  7. Wasik, John. "Mary Jo White: Good Cop or Bad Cop for Wall Street?". Retrieved 25 January 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  8. "Mary Jo White -- Debevoise bio". Retrieved 25 January 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  9. About Us, London Office of Debevoise & Plimpton, retrieved December 11, 2015
  10. Mary Jo White, Obama Pick to Head SEC...., The Huffington Post. Mark Gongloff contributed reporting. January 25, 2013. Retrieved January 31, 2013.
  11. "Why Isn't Wall Street In Jail". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 25 January 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  12. Wagner, Daniel; Verena Dobnik (January 13, 2013). "Swartz' death fuels debate over computer crime". Associated Press. JSTOR's attorney, Mary Jo White — formerly the top federal prosecutor in Manhattan — had called the lead Boston prosecutor in the case and asked him to drop it, said Peters.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  13. White, Mary Jo (June 23, 2013). "Where the SEC Action Will Be". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved April 12, 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  14. Eaglesham, Jean (June 18, 2013). "SEC Seeks Admissions of Fault". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved April 10, 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  15. 15.0 15.1 Eavis, Peter (February 23, 2015). "She Runs S.E.C. He's a Lawyer. Recusals and Headaches Ensue". The New York Times. Retrieved April 12, 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  16. 16.0 16.1 Letter by Elizabeth Warren
  17. Francine Mckenna (June 2, 2015). "Elizabeth Warren blasts Mary Jo White's SEC leadership". Marketwatch. Retrieved June 17, 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

External links

Political offices
Preceded by
Elisse Walter
Chairperson of the Securities and Exchange Commission