Obama Names Wall Street Defense Attorney to Head the SEC

Will America finally get justice for crimes on Wall Street?  We think not.  Today, President Barack Obama named Mary Jo White to head the Securities and Exchange Commission.  The White House and most of the press are touting her credentials as a former New York Southern District prosecutor.  From the White House press briefing:

Mary Jo White -- for those of us, as you were, here in the ‘90s, know of her extraordinary record as a U.S. attorney in the Southern District of New York. I mean, she prosecuted a number of large-scale white-collar crimes in complex securities and financial institution fraud. She brought justice to the terrorists responsible for the bombing of the World Trade Center and for the bombing of American embassies in Africa. She also served as a director of the Nasdaq Stock Exchange. As you know, the SEC plays an essential role in the implementation of Wall Street reform and rooting out reckless behavior in the financial industry. The President believes that that appointment and the other one -- the re-nomination he’s making today -- demonstrate the commitment that he has to carrying out Wall Street reform, making sure that we have the rules of the road that are necessary and that are being enforced in a way that ensures we don't have the kind of financial crisis that we had that led to the worst economic crisis that we've seen since the Great Depression.

Sounds good right?  Uh, not so fast.  If one even bothers to read White's bio from her current law firm Debevoise & Plimpton LLP,  they would find she has been getting Wall Street off the hook for a decade.

Ms. White’s practice concentrates on internal investigations and defense of companies and individuals accused by the government of involvement in white collar corporate crime or Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and civil securities law violations, and on other major business litigation disputes and crises. For her criminal work, she leads a Debevoise team that includes eleven former Assistant U.S. Attorneys with extensive experience in major commercial investigations and prosecutions.

Gets worse than that.  It is clear Wall Street loves her:

Clients assert that in light of he years as the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, she ‘stands alone’ for her ‘phenomenal talent’ in white collar and commercial defense matters.

White represented Bank of America former CEO Ken Lewis in a civil fraud case. She served on the NASDAQ board including the Executive, Audit and Policy Committee. Think about that for the rise of high frequency flash trading. She also had JPMorgan Chase as a client and fended off civil suits surrounding the financial crisis. Most telling JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon is thrilled with the nomination:

I have met Mary Jo White, and anyone who knows her at all - extremely capable, competent, bright, tough, and a perfect choice.

White represented Morgan Stanley and popped up in an SEC investigation::

An October 2008 report by the SEC's inspector general criticized the agency's enforcement chief at the time, Linda Thomsen, for providing "relevant information" to White in June 2005 about evidence the SEC had gathered as part of an insider-trading investigation involving John Mack, Morgan Stanley's CEO. White had been retained by Morgan Stanley's board to help vet Mack for the top job, which he got that year. Discussing e-mails supplied by Morgan Stanley, Thomsen told White the evidence showed there was "smoke there," but "surely no fire," according to the inspector general's report. "Learning the extent of the information the commission had against a potential target could prove very useful in preparing a defense," the report said. "The information was provided specifically because John Mack was being considered for a high-level position in a large investment bank and would not be available to another potential target of lesser means or reputation." The following year, the SEC fired the staff attorney who had been conducting the Mack investigation, Gary Aguirre. The agency in 2010 agreed to pay him $755,000 to settle a wrongful-termination lawsuit. Aguirre claimed the SEC retaliated against him after he complained that his superiors wouldn't let him interview Mack. (An SEC administrative-law judge in November 2008 rejected the inspector general's recommendation that the regulator consider disciplining Thomsen and two other SEC attorneys.) There was never any suggestion that White did anything improper on behalf of Morgan Stanley. She was pursuing her client's interests and digging for information.

White's husband represents clients who would come before the SEC and is lobbying heavily against regulations. From the Wall Street Journal:

Mr. White, a former top SEC official, is co-head of the group at law firm Cravath, Swaine & Moore LLP that advises companies on their public reporting obligations and corporate governance—central SEC issues.

Neil Barfosky, one of the most outspoken critics on financial reform praised the nomination, which maybe a sliver of hope White really switches sides.

I expect that she will be unfazed by the intimidation tactics of the usual suspects in Washington - be they antagonistic members of Congress, captured officials from other parts of government or those who so relentlessly push the agendas of the largest banks.

Yet representing Wall Street for a decade and during the financial crisis sounds like a fox in the hen house.  The never ending revolving door between government and Wall Street is alive and well.  While one could switch gears from being a top notch defense attorney to enforcing SEC regulations, that hasn't been generally the case for the Wall Street revolving door. Philosophy hints do not bode well either.

In February 2012, White expressed doubts at a panel at New York University about whether banks had committed crimes ahead of the financial crisis. She warned against trying to prosecute "mistaken behavior, what is even reckless risk-taking."

Obama kept Richard Cordray as head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. We've seen how well that's going with  record student loan debt.  That said, Cordray is one of the few Populist bright spots in a sea of Wall Street to White House nominations and appointments. 

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Comments

She would be barred from prosecuting former clients anyway

Forget the idea that she would be tough on Wall Street, despite her time defending the very same Wall Street firms she represented for millions of dollars per year. Being paid millions of dollars per year, padding one's bank account, etc. does cause people to form allegiances that don't change with a new job title. Besides $, they still have friends, relatives, etc. in those same firms, so they won't upset them. Also, conflict rules would prohibit her from using anything she knows or learned against former clients or those tied to former clients. Thus, she's basically barred from doing anything against the people that paid her bill = useless.

When she was in the SDNY, she wasn't noted for prosecuting banks. She was prosecuting the "traditional organized crime" aka The Mafia, not the organized crime known as the banking cartel. If she actually did go after the banking cartel and politicians, she wouldn't last long at the SDNY, DOJ wouldn't approve the prosecutions, Debevoise would never hire her, and she wouldn't now be head of the SEC. She never went after banks or financial bigwigs, and this was during the days when the financial bubble, liar loans, derivatives, etc. were building and building. So she's another useless shill.

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she prosecuted white collar crime

What famous cases I don't know and Wall Street except for the lone Ponzi scheme, they have been running amok during that time period. She was in the Clinton administration, under Janet Reno as well. I've been digging around and it appears unless we go into the public records, I sure cannot find these famous white collar crime prosecutions that are being touted. World trade center, famous mobster yes.

Conflict of interest I would think would be her husband most of all, it's not clear to me when one has defended a client can they in turn prosecute them? She won't be the actual prosecutor on the case at all. Civil litigation would be employees (lawyers) at the SEC, and possibly beyond approval she wouldn't be involved in the case at all. Criminal would be turned over to the DOJ I believe and now there is another story. Watch for the Friday Night Video later on that one.

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Since she's barred or not prosecuting, no praise deserved

US Attorneys don't actually prosecute cases either, it's all the AUSAs. So any praise she gets for going after WTC bombers and others is a joke because she heads the office, it's political, and she stands up in the press conferences. US Attorneys are figureheads that get the positions through the right connections and/or massive political contributions (Chris Christie in NJ became US Attorney for NJ that way). Quite frankly the feds are only prosecuting cases they steal from the locals or the cases that have entire FBI offices devoted to them, are easy to prove, and can gather massive press coverage. She wasn't busting ass out in some field investigating and prosecuting terrorism, or organized crime, let alone the white collar crime that was and is running rampant.

Also, as head of the SEC, she's a figurehead. However, she can't share any info. she gained from her defense work as a corporate attorney, thus making her even more useless. So what exactly is she going to do? Probably ensure none of her former clients are investigated or prosecuted. She can basically make it impossible for investigations to start or proceed. DOJ criminally investigating white collar crime, banksters? That hasn't happened and Bush actually did more in that respect (Enron prosecutions even though the Bush/Enron ties were tight).
Nope, it's all shadow play. Nothing changes. She just gets another position she can put on her resume before switching back to the same law firm in 2-4 years and takes a job in some law school or university and joins some corporate boards.

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In a nation of 300,000,000+, it's always the same small clique

Ever notice how the same people keep rotating between govt. and private jobs. Look at the Presidency and other positions in our history. Really, with this many people of all different backgrounds, why is it we always hear about the same families running for President, or Governor, or this elected official, or head of the SEC, or head of DOJ? It's all about backroom deals, nepotism, and cronyism and making sure any "recruitment" is just a waste of time for the 99.9% of people that actually think people care about their skills and education and concern for fellow Americans. It's not about smarts or work ethic or honesty or looking out for the average member of the investing public/taxpayer/citizen. Tired of seeing the same names and people rotating in and out of office and getting rich while doing it. All these people are tarnished and greedy. Looking forward to Chelsea Clinton as President, Mary Jo White's husband as DOJ head, a Kennedy in some governorship, a Bush in the Senate, maybe a Rockefeller running the CIA or NSA or Treasury. And then they can switch to private gigs and be replaced by another friend or relative. Anything to keep that crack-like addiction to power and money going.

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truly, Neil Barofsky, Elizabeth Warren

Te two who come to mind who got in the revolving door outside of crony capitalism as if some token real people make a difference.

Also, notice even in this day and age of technology, beyond CEOs government doesn't seem to have any technologists in real power? Gee, how is the SEC going to deal with HFT when they do not understand HFT?

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US Attorney in Maine typical example of same old same old

A couple of years ago some new US Attorney was appointed in Maine. The funny/pathetic thing was he was a US attorney in 1979 until Carter was defeated. He said in some article that when he was last US Attorney, terrorism wasn't a big deal, people did work on typewriters, and drug trafficking was far different. The guy is 67, worked as a judge and attorney in the past 30 years, and his dad, surprise, sat on Maine's Supreme Judicial Court up until his son was appointed to the US Attorney's spot in 1979.

He was one of four people nominated for the spot and selected. A guy that last served in the spot in 1979 was in the top 4 for the top federal law enforcement position in a border state post-9/11? And he was selected? I'm sure the people of Maine had many, many more people that should have been considered, but never got past that velvet rope of family and political connections. And since Maine is a border state, let's hope we don't all suffer for it. There are thousands of examples just like this where only a small group of people are ever considered. What people now mean by "connections" and "networking" is don't even bother unless you have a relative that will hire you or a crony in a top spot. What's the point of education past reading and writing if you aren't born into certain families?

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dunno the specifics but politics generally is crony

The legal world is a strange place onto itself in terms of judicial appointments and government top dog lawyers. Not my area and I wouldn't take someone's age or the fact they were in the position over 30 years ago against them. Depends on what they were doing since.

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More cheap labor supply during 20+% real unemploiyment

It's so outrageous and obvious that the average citizen here legally is screwed, screwed, sold out, and screwed some more. What's truly pathetic is how the propagandists in govt., business, the media, and academia just ignore basic supply and demand and claim this is good for American workers. Really? In what world? Because it seems every other country in the world has very strict labor and immigration policies to ensure its own citizens get jobs first, you know, because governments are supposed to look out first for their own citizens.

Look at the EU and the UK. Brits have had enough of immigrants coming in to their country when they can't find jobs. Backlash too in Germany, Greece, and elsewhere.

Look at Steve Jobs' widow. She's lobbying hard for illegal immigrants. She was married to a guy that loved slave labor aka "interns" aka sweatshop workers making i-crap in China and elsewhere. And that's exactly why she feels she can dictate immigration policies that destroy us. Nice to know people like that get a seat at the government table but the average American is completely ignored. Marrying i-crap man + his wealth + cheap labor destroying America = good enough to sell out American citizens.

So, Mrs. Jobs, when should we start installing suicide nets in the US to keep those Foxconn workers from leaving work too early when we can match China's sweatshop wages? Kind of obvious the agenda these people have when the methods by which they got rich are examined and the fact that they never actually talk about the long-term unemployed American citizens that are suffering and dying daily.

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They are lobbying for more foreign STEM

to flood the labor market. It is the same old song and dance that was defeated in 2006, 2007 and the reason it was defeated is jobs. They spin it to be a bunch of racists but the entire country was outraged because these politicians spin it as humanitarian and the bills contain almost an unlimited amount of worker imports, all skill levels, flooding the U.S. labor market.

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SEC Enforcement - 100% compromised and owned by banksters

http://dealbook.nytimes.com/2013/04/21/new-leader-expected-for-s-e-c-enf...

Ah yes, more of the same. This has been played out so many times it's 100% predictable. A job with the US Attorney's Office for SDNY leads to a job with a big law firm that then leads to SEC "Enforcement." What a farce.

See, don't be too aggressive fighting banking crime as a federal prosecutor then you can land a gig at a big law firm defending the very same banks. Maybe teach at Harvard on the side. Then, if you kiss their ass enough and use your connections to make sure they are never prosecuted, you can slip back into the government job "enforcing" no laws or become a federal judge. Then, switch right back to big law firms if you aren't a judge. . . and on. . . and on. Integrity? F Integrity. It's all about #1 and selling out the country and rule of law for wallet size. Let the games continue.

Notice how the feds never hire local or state prosecutors that have experience? Or how big law firms hire federal prosecutors most of the time? Check the cases the locals prosecute - they have far more skills and experience than the feds at all levels, from investigations to hearings, trials, and appeals from small time thefts to corruption, embezzlement, murders, robberies, drug trafficking, conspiracies, frauds, forgeries, organized crime/gangs, etc. No, it's because the feds are compromised completely. They only hire those who are compromised. It's not about fighting crime, it's about corruption and hiring fellow clowns that will go along with the BS circus without asking, "What the Hell are we doing and why is this deemed serving the public when it's clearly not?"

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Numerian and I were talking

About how hard it is to cover finance, economics politics these days for it is simply latest corruption, guaranteed no justice and move onto the next outrageous corruption agenda.

We are like witnesses to Rome, 100AD.

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Yup, and those who give a crap are locked out purposely

I'm sure it's the same in every industry. It's sad, and makes honest people uber-pissed, because I know the people who really do care and know the good, bad, right vs wrong are royally screwed over by those who just don't care and honestly believe "greed is good," "everyone lies," and "screw everyone, #1 counts." It's greed, politics (actual politics and office politics), and all the other stuff hard workers were aware of, but didn't have to worry about all the time because these problems never ran the entire show globally from cubicles to labs to transational organizations (e.g., IMF, World Bank, etc.) and didn't infect every aspect of our lives.
How many people that are geniuses and veterans or loyal Americans are now homeless, unemployed, "unemployable," or dead? One is too many, but we're way, way beyond that. Looking around, honest men and women should be filled with rage and sadness (if they aren't personally trying to stay off the streets). Dark days, dark days.

This is Rome 5th Century - we're done. Everyone at the top is looking out for themselves, privatization or outsourcing everything they can, debasing currency (just look at the QEs and central bank actions globally), "elites" engaging in parties while ignoring the increasing disparity between the 1% and 99%. Endless new wars on this or that costing trillions (I think we can find a Roman legion in Britain or elsewhere if we look hard enough). Privatization of prisons + jails and law enforcement, schools, military, and any other sector they can make $ from. This isn't an Empire under Augustus, we're far, far beyond that. Vandals at the gate and our govt. and corporations not only allowed/promoted it, but will try to make profit from our destruction. And if you call them out on it, they'll pass a new law, make you an outlaw, and toss you to the lions. People that think a thought are "overqualified" and treated as lepers and the elites want people to look at the latest celebrity news or other crap to ignore the crumbling infrastructure, lack of jobs for citizens, and 100% corruption. But hey, I'm sure the Senators and Emperor are above reproach, those being fed to the lions are the real criminals (yeah, right).

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