Obama touts SEC, CFPB nominees

President Obama in his weekly address on Saturday lauded his nominees to head the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) as “cops on the beat” to police Wall Street.

“Here in America, we know the free market is the greatest force for economic progress the world has ever known,” Obama said. “But we also know the free market works best for everyone when we have smart, commonsense rules in place to prevent irresponsible behavior.”

Obama tapped Mary Jo White to lead the SEC, and in his address he said her experience prosecuting financial and white-collar crimes as the U.S. attorney in Manhattan qualifies her to “complete the task of reforming Wall Street.”

White led numerous high-profile cases as a federal prosecutor, winning convictions against Ramzi Yousef, who plotted the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, and Mafia don John Gotti.

“Mary Jo White has decades of experience cracking down on white-collar criminals and bringing mobsters and terrorists to justice,” Obama said. “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.”

Obama also re-nominated Richard Cordray to lead the CFPB on Thursday. Republican lawmakers opposed to the consumer agency had blocked Cordray’s selection last year. Obama eventually tapped Cordray through executive action in a recess appointment that expires at the end of this year.

The CFPB was conceived by Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) in her prior role with the administration in the wake of the 2008 financial meltdown. Obama had considered naming Warren to lead the new agency.

“Richard Cordray is a champion for American consumers,” Obama said Saturday. “After the Senate refused to allow Richard an up-or-down vote when I nominated him in 2011, I took action to appoint him on my own. And since then, he’s helped protect Americans from predatory lenders, launched a 'Know Before You Owe' campaign to help families make smart decisions about paying for college, and cracked down on credit card companies that charge hidden fees. But Richard’s appointment runs out at the end of the year, and in order for him to stay on the job, the Senate needs to finally give him the vote he deserves.”

If confirmed, White and Cordray would oversee the continued implementation of the Dodd-Frank financial reform law, one of the president’s signature first-term legislative achievements. Many of that law’s regulations have yet to be implemented, giving the regulators key roles as the administration moves to further Wall Street reform. White is replacing former SEC Chairwoman Mary Schapiro, who announced last month that she would step down.

The nominations of Cordray and White are the latest as Obama shakes up his second-term economic team.

Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner is also leaving the White House, with Obama tapping Chief of Staff Jack Lew to replace him.

The nominations of White and Cordray show Obama taking a tougher stance against Wall Street, after some criticized his nomination of Lew, who worked at Citigroup during the financial meltdown and who was instrumental in shaping President Bill Clinton’s deregulation of Wall Street in the 90s.

“As president, my top priority is simple: to do everything in my power to fight for middle-class families and give every American the tools they need to reach the middle class,” Obama continued.

"That means bringing in people like Mary Jo and Richard, whose job it is to stand up for you. It means encouraging businesses to create more jobs and pay higher wages, and improving education and job training so that more people can get the skills that businesses are looking for. It means reforming our immigration system and keeping our children safe from the menace of gun violence. And it means bringing down our deficit in a balanced way by making necessary reforms and asking every American to pay their fair share.”