EXCERPT FROM CREDO:
Tell President Obama: Time for Mary Jo White to go
The Securities Exchange Commission (SEC), the federal agency responsible for enforcing securities laws and regulating Wall Street, is broken. President Obama’s chair, Mary Jo White, is a big part of the problem. It’s long past time for her to go.
Just this week, the Project On Government Oversight (POGO), a respected government watchdog group, sent a letter to President Obama requesting that he ask Mary Jo White to step down as Chair of the SEC, and that he designate a new head of the agency.1
This follows closely on the heels of a scathing 13-page letter Senator Elizabeth Warren sent directly to White. Sen. Warren called out the SEC chair for refusing to move forward crucial rules, letting corporate criminal activity go unpunished and even lying to the senator about the status of pending regulatory matters.2
We agree with POGO and Senator Elizabeth Warren. Mary Jo White has been a disaster as head of the SEC. President Obama must take action immediately. The evidence is clear. It is time to tell President Obama, loud and clear: No more business as usual – Mary Jo White needs to go.
From her time as a U.S. Attorney giving financial criminals a free pass, to her lucrative stint as a private corporate defense attorney, White’s entire career represents the worst of the revolving door between Wall Street and government.
Senator Elizabeth Warren’s recent letter details a pattern of failure and misleading statements by SEC Chair Mary Jo White. While White immediately attacked Warren’s “mischaracterization” and said she is “very proud of the agency’s achievements under my leadership,” if anything Senator Warren did not go far enough.3 As the Project on Government Oversight and Center for Effective Government make clear, Mary Jo White needs to go. She has:
- Backed “get out of jail free” cards for criminal banks, repeatedly voting to give big banks waivers allowing them to keep special perks despite breaking the law.4 White has even butted heads with reform-minded commissioner Kara Stein, who objects to these free giveaways to admitted criminals.5 As the fifth and tie-breaking vote on many issues, White regularly sides with Wall Street, not Main Street.
- Overseen a paralyzed, Wall Street-friendly SEC. Reports describe White’s SEC as plagued “by discord and paralysis” and her office as “the cheese cellar: It’s where policy goes to age.”6 Rules have taken years to finalize, and her frequent need to recuse herself due to her background as a private defense attorney – and her husband’s current job as a corporate lawyer – has empowered Republicans to demand lighter punishments for corporate lawbreakers.7 In fact, White’s biggest fans appear to be Republicans, with Senator Mike Crapo praising her “flexibility” and rabidly pro-Wall Street commissioner Daniel Gallagher offering additional plaudits.8
- Hired a Goldman Sachs managing director and Romney donor as her new Chief of Staff. After overlooking Wall Street fraud as the Director of Investment at the SEC in the run-up to the financial crash, Andrew Donohue was later richly rewarded as managing director at Goldman Sachs, where he oversaw the firm’s legal matters. In 2012, he made a generous donation to Mitt Romney.9 And now, in a disgusting example of the revolving door, he’s about to return to the SEC in the highly influential position of Chief of Staff to Mary Jo White.10
- On top of it all, the Securities and Exchange Commission has settled the majority of its cases without requiring companies to admit guilt, breaking a key promise Mary Jo White made in her confirmation hearing. And not only has the SEC not finalized a rule to force companies to disclose how much more they pay CEOs than average employees despite overwhelming pressure from tens of thousands of CREDO members, White actually lied to Senator Warren about the timeline for releasing the rule.11 We’ve given Mary Jo White enough time to prove her detractors wrong. Her time at the SEC should now come to an end.
Mary Jo White has many defenders among the powerful and well-connected, and they won’t like us calling for her to go. When Senator Elizabeth Warren dared to criticize White, bank lobbyists took to the press to declare that Warren had finally gone too far.12 But CREDO members have never been shy about taking on big fights when that fight is important. Mary Jo White has had nearly two years to live up to her promises to get tough on exploitative banks and criminal corporations, and she has failed to do so.
As POGO wrote in its letter to President Obama, he has the power to name a new Chair of the commission, while letting Mary Jo White know that her services on the SEC are no longer desired. He could promote Kara Stein, “Elizabeth Warren’s ally on the inside.”13 Or he could replace Luis Aguilar, whose term is up soon, with a proven reformer and champion of Main Street who he also nominates as Chair. The Securities and Exchange Commission, with its wide-ranging responsibilities for overseeing private equity, hedge funds, Wall Street banks, and big corporations, is simply too important an institution to leave in her charge.
Petition to President Barack Obama:
“Replace Mary Jo White as Chair of the Securities and Exchange Commission with someone who will stand up to Wall Street.”
Go to the CREDO site below to sign the petition:
Thank you for speaking out,
Becky Bond, Political Director
CREDO Action from Working Assets
Project On Government Oversight, “POGO Asks President Obama to Replace SEC Chair Mary Jo White, pogo.org, June 8, 2015.
Zach Carter, “Elizabeth Warren Has Had It With The SEC’s Aid To Wall Street Lawbreakers,” HuffingtonPost, June 2, 2015.
Patrick Temple-West and Ben White, “Did Elizabeth Warren go too far this time?,” Politico, June 2, 2015.
Elizabeth Warren, “Letter to the Honorable Mary Jo White,” Senate.Warren.Gov, June 2, 2015.
Patrick Temple-West, “Elizabeth Warren’s ally on the inside,” Politico, May 18, 2015.
David Michaels and Robert Schmidt, “The Agency That Barely Moves,” Bloomberg, May 21, 2015.
Ben Protess and Peter Eavis, “Political Fights Throw Sand in Gears of S.E.C.,” New York Times, May 28, 2015.
Alec MacGillis, “Mary Jo White Doesn’t Scare Anybody,” The New Republic, May 4, 2015.
“Andrew Donohue Donor Lookup,” OpenSecrets.org, Retrieved June 6, 2015.
Kevin G. Hall, “Goldman lawyer becomes SEC chief of staff,” McClatchy, May 28, 2015.
Warren, “Letter to the Honorable Mary Jo White.”
Temple-West and White, “Did Elizabeth Warren go too far this time?”
Temple-West, “Elizabeth Warren’s ally on the inside.”