Select 'Print' in your browser menu to print this document.
Is Mary Jo White Tough Enough? Here's One Way to Find Out
The Litigation Daily
I'm conflicted about whether Mary Jo White is a good choice for Commissioner of the Securities and Exchange Commission. On the one hand: tough prosecutor. On the other: protector of Ken Lewis.
White's decade-long tenure as a partner at Debevoise & Plimpton does concern me. The last time someone transitioned from a law firm to the SEC's top job was when Harvey Pitt headed the agency. Remember how that turned out? During his brief and troubled stint from 2001-2003, the former Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson partner was attacked for his ties to former clients in the accounting industry, which was under fire following scandals at places like Enron and Worldcom. Pitt resigned under pressure.
Under White, the agency will be scrutinized whether or not it takes action against the likes of Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase, Morgan Stanley, or any other company or person with a connection to Debevoise. And recusal issues may become a real problem. Time will tell if White's fierce advocacy for Bank of America's former CEO and other corporate leaders have dampened her concern for ordinary investors.
There is one thing White can do right away that will reassure me that she's a smart choice: Show that she's got a spine of steel. And I can point her to a project she can tackle right away.