“You don’t want to mess with Mary Jo.”
That’s what President Obama said about his pick to run the Securities and Exchange Commission, Mary Jo White. The nomination of Ms. White, a former prosecutor who took on the terrorists behind the bombing of the World Trade Center in 1993 and the Mafia boss John Gotti, was meant to signal that the S.E.C. would be getting tough on Wall Street. CBS called her “Wall Street’s new sheriff.” The Wall Street Journal said she would be “putting a tougher face on an agency still tainted by embarrassing enforcement missteps in the run-up to the financial crisis.” The New York Times said her appointment represented a “renewed resolve to hold Wall Street accountable.”
While Ms. White is a decorated prosecutor, she has spent the last decade vigorously defending — and billing by the hour — Wall Street’s biggest banks, as a rainmaking partner at the white-shoe law firm Debevoise & Plimpton. The average partner at the firm was paid $2.1 million a year, according to American Lawyer; but she was no average partner, very likely being paid at least double that. Her husband, John W. White, is a corporate partner at Cravath, Swaine & Moore. He counts JPMorgan Chase, Credit Suisse and UBS as clients. The average partner at Cravath makes $3.1 million. He, too, was a former official at the S.E.C. — he left Cravath to run the corporate division of the S.E.C. starting in 2006 just in time for the run-up to the financial crisis. He left in November 2008, a month after the bank bailouts, to return to Cravath.
It seems Mr. and Ms. White have made a fine art of the revolving door between government and private practice.
So how conflicted is Ms. White? Let’s count the ways. [continue]