Last updated: November 26, 2012 8:54 pm

Schapiro to step down as head of SEC

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Mary Schapiro: said resistance led to the suspension©Reuters

Mary Schapiro has been one of the longest-serving heads of the SEC

Mary Schapiro, chair of the US Securities and Exchange Commission, is stepping down next month after nearly four years in charge of the top stock market regulator.

Her departure, which was expected after the presidential election, opens another cabinet-level post for President Barack Obama to fill.

Mr Obama named Elisse Walter, one of the SEC’s five commissioners, as the new chair in the short term though her contract expires at the end of next year. The White House is likely to designate a permanent successor in the coming months.

“I’m confident that Elisse’s years of experience will serve her well in her new position, and I’m grateful she has agreed to help lead the agency,” said Mr Obama.

Analysts cautioned that the departure of Ms Schapiro did not mean a reprieve for money market funds, which are battling SEC reforms that could make their business model less viable.

Ms Walter, a 17-year SEC veteran, is regarded as a close ally of Ms Schapiro.

Possible contenders as a long-term replacement include Mary Miller, a senior Treasury official; Harvey Goldschmid, a former SEC commissioner and now professor at Columbia Law School; Richard Ketchum, head of the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority; Sallie Krawcheck, former head of wealth management at Merrill Lynch; and Gary Gensler, chair of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission.

Ms Schapiro’s chairmanship is notable for an increase in the number of insider trading cases investigated by the SEC and other high-profile enforcement actions such as the $550m paid by Goldman Sachs to settle allegations it misled investors in a structured mortgage product.

She has dealt with the aftermath of the Madoff scandal after the SEC ignored warnings under her predecessor’s watch that the now-imprisoned Bernard Madoff was running a fraudulent investment company.

The SEC’s standing was further diminished after it was revealed that dozens of officials had viewed pornography at work.

“It’s hard to fault her on some of the management miscues of the SEC because it’s such a diverse agency that’s constantly under attack and underfunded,” said Dennis Kelleher, head of Better Markets, a group that campaigns for tougher financial regulation.

Mr Kelleher argued that a “diverse background and a thorough understanding of capital markets” were vital for Ms Schapiro’s successor.

More than two years after Dodd-Frank was passed into law, the SEC is yet to produce a number of rules mandated by the regulatory overhaul. “Dodd-Frank is a work where they’ve done a lot of the easy lift but the two biggest ones – derivatives and the Volcker rule – are not yet done,” said one Democratic aide on Capitol Hill.

This article is subject to a correction and has been amended.

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