Obama will name former prosecutor Mary Jo White SEC chairman

Policy Inexperience

Still, White, who has served on the board of the Nasdaq Stock Market Inc., could face questions over her lack of policy experience as the SEC grapples with a packed rule-making agenda, including reform of regulations for money-market mutual funds and the Volcker rule ban on banks’ trading with their own funds.

White didn’t immediately respond to an e-mail seeking comment.

Her work as a defense attorney for some of Wall Street’s biggest names could also raise concerns among lawmakers. She represented Lewis during an SEC probe of claims that Charlotte, North Carolina-based Bank of America didn’t disclose bonuses that Merrill Lynch & Co. paid to executives before buying the brokerage. The bank settled the claims for $150 million; Lewis wasn’t accused of wrongdoing.

In 2011, White was hired by News Corp. to defend its independent directors against claims related to the company’s role in phone hacking by News of the World, its former U.K.- based tabloid.

Public Anger

In recent years, the SEC has been faulted by lawmakers, judges and investors for failing to bring more cases related to the financial market turmoil that peaked in 2008. White said last year that prosecutors shouldn’t allow public anger to influence investigations.

“You should be aggressive where there is a crime,” she said at a New York University School of Law event in February 2012. Prosecutors must not “fail to distinguish what is actually criminal and what is just mistaken behavior, what is even reckless risk-taking, and not bow to the frenzy,” she said.

White also surfaced in an SEC controversy when she worked on behalf of Morgan Stanley to vet John Mack before he was named CEO of the investment bank. She sought information in 2005 from then-SEC enforcement director Linda Thomsen about what an insider-trading probe of hedge-fund manager Pequot Capital Management Inc. revealed about Mack’s involvement.

An SEC inspector general’s report issued in 2008 questioned whether Thomsen should have shared information about a potential target with White. The agency later informed Mack and Pequot that it had closed the investigation and wouldn’t pursue any action against them.

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