““You don’t want to mess with Mary Jo.”
“That’s what President Obama said about his pick to run the Securities and Exchange Commission, Mary Jo White. The nomination of Ms. White, a former prosecutor who took on the terrorists behind the bombing of the World Trade Center in 1993 and the Mafia boss John Gotti, was meant to signal that the S.E.C. would be getting tough on Wall Street. CBS called her “Wall Street’s new sheriff.” The Wall Street Journal said she would be “putting a tougher face on an agency still tainted by embarrassing enforcement missteps in the run-up to the financial crisis.” The New York Times said her appointment represented a “renewed resolve to hold Wall Street accountable.”
“While Ms. White is a decorated prosecutor, she has spent the last decade vigorously defending – and billing by the hour – Wall Street’s biggest banks, as a rainmaking partner at the white-shoe law firm Debevoise & Plimpton. The average partner at the firm was paid $2.1 million a year, according to American Lawyer; but she was no average partner, very likely being paid at least double that. Her husband, John W. White, is a corporate partner at Cravath, Swaine & Moore. He counts JPMorgan Chase, Credit Suisse and UBS as clients. The average partner at Cravath makes $3.1 million. He, too, was a former official at the S.E.C. – he left Cravath to run the corporate division of the S.E.C. starting in 2006 just in time for the run-up to the financial crisis. He left in November 2008, a month after the bank bailouts, to return to Cravath.
““Of course, there can always be a value to inviting a onetime rival onto the team.
““I believe she is one of those people who will understand that her public role will be very, very different than her role as a defense lawyer,” Dennis M. Kelleher of Better Markets, a watchdog group, told me. “I don’t think she’s going to be like so many others who don’t get that they have a very different role when they hold high public office.
““No question, she’s said some things that are controversial and questionable,” Mr. Kelleher said. “Moreover, I hope and expect that she will be asked publicly about them in the confirmation process and that she will have convincing answers.”
“Of course, if she is confirmed, we must all hope that she can put her previous client relationships behind her and work for her new client – us.”
Read Andrew Ross Sorkin’s full New York Times article here