Securities and Exchange Commission Chair Mary Jo White, after nearly four years as the agency’s head, today announced that she intends to leave at the end of the Obama Administration. Under Chair White’s leadership, the Commission strengthened protections for investors and the markets through transformative rulemakings that addressed major issues highlighted by the financial crisis. The Commission also instituted a new approach to enforcement that has resulted in greater accountability and record actions through, among other things, the use of admissions of wrongdoing and enhanced data analytics and technology.
Chair White, who became the 31st Chair of the SEC in April 2013, will be one of the SEC’s longest serving Chairs.
“It has been a tremendous honor to work alongside the incredibly talented and dedicated SEC staff members who do so much every day to protect investors and our markets,” said Chair White. “I am very proud of our three consecutive years of record enforcement actions, dozens of fundamental reforms through our rulemakings that have strengthened investor protections and market stability, and that the job satisfaction of our phenomenal staff has climbed in each of the last three years. I also want to express my appreciation for the engagement and dedication of my fellow Commissioners and my financial regulator colleagues, past and present.”
In addition to completing the vast majority of the agency’s mandates under the Dodd-Frank Act and all of its mandates under the JOBS Act, Chair White’s leadership has advanced the agency’s mission through other critical rulemakings and built robust and effective frameworks for the SEC’s regulatory regimes going forward.
“My duty has been to ensure that the Commission implemented strong investor and market protections, and to establish an enduring foundation for future progress in the most critical areas – asset management regulation, equity market structure and disclosure effectiveness,” said Chair White. “Thanks to the hard work and dedication of the SEC’s staff, we have accomplished both.”
Chair White drove many important rules and other policy measures to completion. Under her leadership, the Commission advanced more than 50 significant rulemaking initiatives, including:
- Fundamental reforms to the money market fund industry and unprecedented new disclosures and protections for mutual fund investors in a major initiative to strengthen regulation of the $67 trillion asset management industry
- Enhanced equity market structure oversight, including wide-ranging new controls on how key market participants handle technology and systems issues
- A comprehensive framework for enhancing the effectiveness of corporate disclosure for investors
- Extensive new safeguards for the financial system and for investors in the more than $7 trillion security-based swap market
- New ways for smaller companies to raise capital needed to grow their businesses
- New post-crisis restrictions on proprietary trading and investments by broker-dealers and other financial institutions through the Volcker rule
- Major enhancements to transparency and risk management for asset-backed securities, which were a significant contributor to the financial crisis
- Strong operating standards for the clearing agencies that stand at the center of our financial system
- Extensive reforms to the regulation of credit rating agencies and how they address conflicts of interest that can harm investors
- First-ever regulatory framework for municipal advisors who are critical to the capital raising activities of thousands of local governments
- Modernized rules of practice for conducting administrative proceedings, including providing expanded rights of discovery
To enhance accountability of those who violate the securities laws, Chair White implemented the Commission’s first-ever policy to require admissions of wrongdoing in certain cases where heightened accountability and acceptance of responsibility is appropriate. Thus far, the Commission has required admissions from more than 70 defendants, including 44 entities and 29 individuals.
During Chair White’s tenure, the Commission brought more than 2,850 enforcement actions, more than any other three-year period in the Commission’s history, and obtained judgments and orders totaling more than $13.4 billion in monetary sanctions. The Commission charged over 3,300 companies and over 2,700 individuals, including CEOs, CFOs, and other senior corporate officers.
The record number of enforcement actions over the last three fiscal years against companies and senior executives involved many “first of their kind” cases in asset management, market structure and public finance. Other major cases involved insider and abusive trading, violations of anti-corruption rules and misconduct in accounting and financial reporting. In the last year alone, the Commission brought a record 868 enforcement actions. And for the first time, the Commission devoted significant resources and emphasis on using cutting edge data analytics to uncover and investigate misconduct resulting in numerous enforcement actions involving insider trading, asset management and complex financial instruments.
As a result of the successful whistleblower program, the Commission has awarded more than $100 million, since inception — virtually all during Chair White’s tenure — to whistleblowers who provided key original information that led to successful enforcement actions.
Under Chair White’s leadership, the Commission made significant enhancements to its examination program, including increasing staff by about 20 percent by hiring new examiners where funding permitted and redeploying staff from other program areas to heighten focus on the fast-growing investment management industry.
The exam program also increased its use of advanced quantitative techniques to enable examiners to detect misconduct by more quickly analyzing large amounts of data. Over the past year, the examination program conducted more than 2,400 formal examinations of registrants, an increase over each of the prior seven fiscal years. The Commission also enhanced technology in its examination program through the National Exam Analytics Tool (NEAT), which enables examiners to analyze large volumes of trading data much more efficiently.
Chair White serves as a member of the Financial Stability Oversight Council and on several other domestic and international organizations, including the International Organization of Securities Commissions, the Financial Stability Board, the International Financial Reporting Standards Foundation Monitoring Board, the Financial and Banking Information Infrastructure Committee, and the Federal Housing Finance Oversight Board.
Chair White added, “It has been and will always be critical for this agency and the public that the SEC remain truly independent. That independence is crucial to our ability to protect investors, safeguard our markets and facilitate the capital formation that fosters innovation and the growth that is essential to our national economy.”
Prior to her arrival at the Commission, Chair White spent decades as a federal prosecutor and securities lawyer. As the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York from 1993 to 2002, she prosecuted cases involving complex securities and financial institution frauds, other white collar crime and international terrorists. She also served as an Assistant U.S. Attorney and was Chief Appellate Attorney of that office’s Criminal Division. She served as Acting U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York as well as the First Assistant U.S. Attorney. In private practice, she was a litigation partner and chair of the litigation department of Debevoise & Plimpton LLP, overseeing more than 200 lawyers. Chair White is also a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and the American College of Trial Lawyers.
This post comes to us from the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. It is based on the Commission’s press release, “SEC Chair Mary Jo White Announces Departure Plans,” dated November 14, 2016, and available here.