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January 28, 2013

What (If Anything) Can Fix the SEC?

When President Obama nominated former U.S. Attorney Mary Jo White to be the next Chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), the reaction was generally positive. White will be the first prosecutor to head the nation’s top financial regulator, and many critics of Big Finance are seeing the pick as a clear indication that the President wants to get tough on Wall Street shenanigans. For instance, Dennis Kelleher, president of the nonprofit organization Better Markets, which lobbies for financial regulatory reform, said in a statement:

“Mary Jo White was a tough, smart, no nonsense, broadly experienced and highly accomplished prosecutor.  She knew who the bad guys were, went after them and put them in prison when they broke the law.  That’s what must happen if integrity and investor confidence is to be restored in our securities markets.  Wall Street is a high crime area and Mary Jo White brings the right skill set to restore the rule of law on Wall Street.”

Kelleher is right in that the rule of law on Wall Street has broken down in recent years. Scandal has rocked the financial world for most of the new century, beginning with the collapse of Enron and the dot-com bubble bursting at the turn of the century, followed by the various misdeeds that lead to the 2008 financial crisis, and continuing to this day with banking scandals like LIBOR.”

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