White Takes Over as SEC Chair

Fall 2013

Columbia Law School graduate Mary Jo White ’74 was named chair of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission earlier this year, filling the vacancy left by former Chairman Mary L. Schapiro, who stepped down in 2012. White, the former U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, was nominated by President Barack Obama in January, and was confirmed by the U.S. Senate in April.

“You don’t want to mess with Mary Jo,” the president told reporters after announcing White’s nomination, acknowledging her background as a longtime federal prosecutor. For 10 years, White directed many high-profile cases, first as the chief assistant U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, and then as U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York. Her successful prosecutions include the convictions of those charged with the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, as well as that of former Gambino crime family boss John Gotti.

After stepping down from her U.S. Attorney post in 2002, White rejoined Debevoise & Plimpton in New York City, where she was a litigation partner from 1983 to 1990. Upon her return, White served as chair of the firm’s litigation practice, focusing on major business litigation disputes and white-collar criminal defense cases. She has also served on the board of directors of the NASDAQ stock exchange.

After the announcement of her nomination, White said she looked forward to fulfilling the agency’s mission to protect investors and ensure the strength, efficiency, and transparency of the country’s capital markets.

“The SEC, long a vital and positive force for the markets, has a lot of hard and important work ahead of it,” she added.

White is a 1998 recipient of the Columbia Law School Medal for Excellence, the Law School’s highest honor. She returned to campus in 2012 to discuss national security issues and the prosecution of terrorism cases.