White is married to John White, a partner at Cravath, Swaine & Moore who is a former SEC lawyer and now co-head of the corporate governance and board advisory practice at Cravath.
Her nomination will have to be confirmed by the Senate. She would replace Elisse Walter, a George W. Bush appointee who took over as chair in December when Mary Schapiro announced she would step down.
Obama also yesterday renominate Richard Cordray, a former prosecutor, to lead the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. With the nominations, the president said the two attorneys in top enforcement roles will help ensure the implementation of consumer protection efforts and Wall Street reforms.
White's tenure in the U.S. Attorney's Office was defined by high-profile terrorism cases but also her aggressive efforts in targeting both street crime, through prosecutions of violent gangs in drug and gun cases, and white-collar crime and securities fraud cases.
During an interview on leaving the Southern District in 2002, White said she was proud that her office tripled the number of securities fraud indictments as part of what she called "an effort to get at the more systematic problems."
White put pressure on major Wall Street firms, holding companies responsible for the actions of low-level employees or charging a company criminally.
Among noteworthy prosecutions during her tenure were the investigation of Bennett Funding Group executive Patrick R. Bennett, who bilked investors out of almost $700 million and the indictment against the Daiwa Bank of Japan, which was accused of hiding over $1 billion in trading losses. The bank was forced to close up shop in the United States.