Mary Jo White, President Obama’s nominee to head up the Securities Exchange Commission, appeared before the Senate Banking Committee this morning for her confirmation hearing. For those who want the play-by-play, Dealbook live-blogged the proceedings and C-SPAN is streaming it over the Internet.
According to Ben Protess of Dealbook, committee chair Sen. Tim Johnson (D-SD) cut right to the chase on the issue of the SEC’s revolving door and White’s history of working for a Wall Street law firm where she had a number of big banks as clients.
Mr. Johnson, the committee chairman, seized on Ms. White’s ties to Wall Street. “What steps will you take to address potential conflicts of interest?” he asked.
Ms. White, bracing for such scrutiny, outlined her strategy for managing potential conflicts .”I’m very scrupulous about these issues and place a very high bar,” she replied. She added that government ethics officials assured Ms. White that her conflicts were “not out of the ordinary in scope, nor out of the ordinary for past chairmen of the S.E.C.”
In case her stance was unclear, she repeated that she was “very vigilant in managing” potential conflicts.
Mr. Johnson pushed further, questioning her approach to cracking down on financial fraud. “How will you signal that wrongdoing will not be tolerated?” he asked.
“I don’t think there’s anything more important than vigorous enforcement of the securities laws,” she assured the committee. “I’ll be very focused on that throughout my tenure.”
White is widely expected to be confirmed.
Later today, Richard Cordray, President’s Obama’s pick for director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, will go before the committee for his confirmation hearing. Although he’s been serving as Obama’s recess appointment for the past year, he is going through the confirmation process to become the permanent director of the agency. Over 40 Republican senators have vowed to block his nomination.