Senate confirms White to lead SEC

The Senate unanimously approved Mary Jo White to lead the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) on Monday.

Shortly after returning from a two-week break, the Senate quickly acted to approve the former federal prosecutor to lead the Wall Street watchdog, signing off on her confirmation by unanimous consent.

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The only lawmaker to oppose her nomination at any step in the process was Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), who voted against her when she appeared before the Senate Banking Committee but did not block the consent request on the Senate floor.

White will now take the reins of the financial regulator following the December departure of its former head, Mary Schapiro. SEC Commissioner Elisse Walter led the agency in the interim.

White cruised to confirmation following near-unanimous approval from the Banking Committee. Several members praised White's stint as a prosecutor and her tough reputation as reasons for backing her confirmation. In announcing his pick, President Obama did the same, noting she previously worked to prosecute terrorists and mob bosses.

"You don't want to mess with Mary Jo," he said. "Mary Jo does not intimidate easily."

But Brown, who pressed White on her time as a white-collar defense attorney whose clients included several banks and financial executives, opposed the nominee, arguing that regulators should look beyond Wall Street to find an SEC head.

In a statement following the committee vote, Brown said he opposed the nominee to protest "Washington's long-held bias towards Wall Street and its inability to find watchdogs outside of the very industry they are meant to police."

He added that he did not question White's skills or integrity as an attorney, and said she would have "plenty of opportunities to prove me wrong. I hope she will."

White sought to assuage Brown's concerns, contending that if confirmed, she would treat the American public as her client and work "as zealously as possible on behalf of them."

She also vowed "unrelenting" enforcement of Wall Street, and identified technological improvements and rigorous economic analysis for new rules and other priorities if confirmed. She also said she would emphasize completing rules implementing the Dodd-Frank financial reform law and the Jumpstart Our Business Startups (JOBS) Act as head of the agency.

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