Mary Jo White

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Mary Jo White
Mary Jo White.jpg
Occupation Chairman
Employer SEC
Location Washington D.C.

Mary Jo White is the chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission. President Obama nominated White for that position in January 2013 [1] and she was confirmed as SEC chair on April 8, 2013 by a unanimous vote. [2] She is the first person since Harvey Pitt to head the SEC directly after working as a Wall Street defense attorney.

Chair White presided over record numbers of enforcement actions, mostly against against private fraudsters, but also against municipal governments that misled investors. On November 14, 2016, she announced that she would step down as chair of the SEC in January 2017 after almost four years in the role.[3]

On June 5, 2014, White unveiled a comprehensive set of proposals for new rules and other changes aimed at strengthening the structure of the equities market and improving disclosures for investors. These included proposing that the SEC install further safeguards against any damaging volatility in stock prices caused by high-frequency trading, and that dark pools be required to release information about their operations to the public. She also said she had asked the SEC staff to draft a rule requiring high speed trading companies to register with the agency, and is trying to close a loophole that allows trading companies to avoid registering with the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority.[4]


Before being confirmed as SEC chairman, White was a partner in the New York office of Debevoise & Plimpton LLP, where she acted as the chairman of the law firm's litigation department. Her entire career has consisted of alternating between the public sector and Debevoise & Plimpton. After earning her law degree, she began as a law clerk in the Southern District of New York. From 1976-1978, she worked an associate at Debevoise. In 1978, she returned to the Southern District of New York as an Assistant U.S. Attorney, eventually becoming Chief Appellate Attorney of the Criminal Division.

In 1983, White returned to Debevoise as a litigation partner, focusing on white collar defense, where she remained until 1990, when she returned to the public sector as U.S. attorney in the Eastern District of New York. From 1993 to 2002, she served as the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, where she earned a reputation as an aggressive prosecutor of terrorists.[5]

White returned to Debevoise in 2002 to head the litigation department in New York and its 225 lawyers. Among her latest work related to Wall Street firms, she defended ex-Bank of America CEO Ken Lewis against shareholders who felt they were misled in the Merrill Lynch acquisition, and she also defended former Goldman Sachs board member Rajat Gupta in an insider trading scandal. Other recent clients include JPMorgan and the Morgan Stanley board.[6]


White graduated from the College of William & Mary in 1970 with a B.A., Phi Beta Kappa. She earned an M.A. in Psychology in 1971 from the New School for Social Research and a J.D. in 1974 from Columbia Law School. While at Columbia, she was an officer of the Law Review.[7]