The Senate Banking Committee voted 21-1 to recommend the full Senate confirm President Obama’s nominee Mary Jo White as Securities and Exchange Commission chairman.
Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, cast the lone vote against her.
“I don’t question Mary Jo White’s integrity or skill as an attorney,” Brown said in a statement released after the vote. “But I do question Washington’s long-held bias towards Wall Street and its inability to find watchdogs outside of the very industry that they are meant to police.”
“Mary Jo White will have plenty of opportunities to prove me wrong, I hope she will,” he added.
White has spent the last decade at law firm Debevoise & Plimpton LLP and heads the firm’s litigation department. She has defended many Wall Street firms but told committee members at the hearing that she would recuse herself from working on enforcement actions related to those former cases if she was confirmed. She was U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York from 1993 to 2002.
During her confirmation hearing before the committee earlier this month, Brown had asked White about her consulting with Justice Department or White House officials when considering whether to file charges against financial firms.
White said she had asked the deputy attorney general about a firm’s claim that an indictment would result in great damage to the Japanese or world economy. She said she was told to make her own decision and that she assumed this meant an indictment would have no impact.
Brown had asked White what she had done in the last decade that demonstrates a commitment to protecting the public.
White responded that her work as a defense attorney “does not mean … I embrace the policy thoughts of any of my clients,” and said she was “exceptionally aggressive” in prosecuting large institutions and chief executive officers as a U.S. attorney.
She also told committee members that she had provided the White House and the SEC with details about her and her husband’s legal work to ensure potential conflicts will not violate ethics regulations or laws, or create other problems.
Her husband, John White, is a partner at New York law firm Cravath, Swaine & Moore LLP.