There had been some discussion recently that perhaps SEC Chair Mary Jo White might stay on as chair until President-elect Trump found a new head for the agency, but no more. White announced yesterday that she intends to depart the SEC at the end of the Obama Administration.
President Obama nominated White to lead the SEC in January 2013, famously telling the world in his introduction of her that "You don't want to mess with Mary Jo!" She was sworn in as the 31st Chair of the SEC in April 2013, and her nearly four years leading the agency makes her one of its longest-serving chairs.
With respect to enforcement, the SEC noted in a statement that under White's direction the SEC had recorded three consecutive years of record enforcement actions. Specifically, the agency brought more than 2,850 enforcement actions during her tenure, which it noted yesterday was "more than in any other three-year period in the Commission’s history." The SEC also obtained judgments and orders totaling more than $13.4 billion in monetary sanctions, and charged over 3,300 companies and over 2,700 individuals in enforcement actions under White.
In addition, White oversaw the change in SEC policy that required, for the first time, admissions of wrongdoing by settling defendants in certain cases. To date, the Commission has required admissions from 73 defendants (44 entities and 29 individuals). Other key enforcement developments under White included "first-ever" cases in the cybersecurity, asset management, market structure and public finance areas; a renewed focus on accounting and financial reporting cases and the creation of the Financial Reporting and Audit (FRAud) Group; and a significant investment and commitment to using data analytics to uncover and investigate insider trading, financial fraud, asset management misconduct, and other types of fraud and misconduct. White also oversaw the growth and huge success of the SEC's Office of the Whistleblower, which has now awarded more than $100 million since its inception in 2012.
Other miscellaneous highlights and events from White's time as Chair of the SEC include:
Being named to TIME Magazine's 2014 list of the "100 most influential people in the world" (along with Beyoncé!);
Announcing in October 2014 that the SEC would pursue a controversial "Broken Windows" approach to enforcement under her leadership;
Leading a commission that for over a year has been stuck at just three (out of five) commissioners because of Congress' failure to confirm or even act on President Obama's October 2015 nominees;
Throwing out the first pitch (a strike!) at Nationals Park at a game between the Washington Nationals and the visiting New York Mets; and
Several pretty amazing cartoon renderings of Chair White that will hopefully be on her office wall in whatever her next endeavor may be!