President Barack Obama has tapped Mary Jo White, a former U.S. attorney turned white-collar defense lawyer, to be the next chairwoman of the Securities and Exchange Commission.
Mr. Obama announced the nomination Thursday afternoon at the White House. As part of the event, the White House also renominated Richard Cordray to lead the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, a role he has held for the last year under a recess appointment.
In its choice of Ms. White and Mr. Cordray, the White House is sending a signal about the importance of holding Wall Street accountable for wrongdoing. Both are former prosecutors.
Regulatory chiefs are often market experts or academics. But Ms. White spent nearly a decade as the U.S. attorney in New York, the first woman named to this post. Among her prominent cases, she oversaw the prosecution of John Gotti, the Mafia boss, as well as the people responsible for the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. She is now working the other side, defending Wall Street firms and executives as a partner at Debevoise & Plimpton.
As Ohio's attorney general, Mr. Cordray made a name for himself suing Wall Street companies in the wake of the financial crisis. He undertook a series of prominent lawsuits against big names in the finance world, including Bank of America and American International Group.
The White House expects Ms. White, 65, and Mr. Cordray, 53, to draw on their prosecutorial backgrounds while carrying out a broad regulatory agenda under the Dodd-Frank Act. Congress enacted the law, which mandates a regulatory overhaul, in response to the 2008 financial crisis.
White House press secretary Jay Carney said Ms. White has "an incredibly impressive resume."
"The president believes that appointment and the renomination he's making today demonstrate the commitment he has to carrying out Wall Street reform, making sure we have the rules of the road that are necessary, and that are being enforced in a way" to avoid a crisis like that of 2008, he said.
Ms. White will succeed Elisse B. Walter, a longtime SEC official who took over as chairwoman after Mary L. Schapiro stepped down as the agency's leader in December.
Mr. Cordray joined the consumer bureau in 2011 as its enforcement director.
The Senate already declined to confirm Mr. Cordray, with Republicans vowing to block any candidate for the consumer bureau, an agency created to rein in financial industry excesses. It is unclear whether the White House and Mr. Cordray will face another standoff.
Mr. Carney argued that there were no substantive objections to Mr. Cordray's confirmation, only political ones. "He is absolutely the right person for the job," Mr. Carney said.
Ms. White is expected to receive broader support on Capitol Hill. Sen. Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., declared that Ms. White was a "tough-as-nails prosecutor" who "will not shy away from enforcing the laws to ensure that markets operate fairly."