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Senate's approval of SEC nominee unanimous

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By The Los Angeles Times
Monday, April 8, 2013, 7:36 p.m.

WASHINGTON — The Senate on Monday confirmed Mary Jo White to chair the Securities and Exchange Commission, placing a tough former prosecutor in the role of Wall Street's top watchdog.

White was confirmed by a unanimous voice vote in the Senate, an indication of broad bipartisan support.

The Senate Banking Committee voted 22 to 1 to approve her nomination last month, with the lone no vote from Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio. Brown has been critical of federal officials in general for not being tougher on Wall Street.

President Obama nominated White as the long-term replacement for Mary Schapiro, who stepped down in September. Democratic Commissioner Elisse Walter has been leading the SEC since then.

White made a name for herself as the first woman to serve as U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York. From 1993 to 2002, White aggressively prosecuted insider traders, drug traffickers and terrorists, including those involved in the 1993 World Trade Center attack and the 1998 bombings of two U.S. embassies in Africa.

She becomes the first former prosecutor to chair the SEC. But the job involves more than enforcement. The SEC is implementing dozens of new regulations as part of the 2010 overhaul of financial rules.

“The SEC needs a strong leader in place as it works to implement Wall Street reform, and that is exactly what the commission is getting with Mary Jo White,” Senate Banking Committee Chairman Tim Johnson, D-S.D., said.

Some senators raised potential conflict-of-interest issues at her confirmation hearing. After leaving the U.S. attorney's office, White took a job at a New York law firm representing some major Wall Street firms and figures, including former Goldman Sachs Group Inc. director Rajat Gupta and former Bank of America Corp. Chief Executive Ken Lewis.

White apparently allayed senators' concerns, promising tough enforcement and saying, “The American public will be my client.”

“Mrs. White has an impressive record in both the public and private sectors,” Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kan., said after her confirmation.

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