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Former SEC Chairs Defend White

Six former SEC chairs defended current SEC Chair Mary Jo White in the face of criticism from Senator Elizabeth Warren. In a letter to the Wall Street Journal, David S. Ruder, Harvey L. Pitt, William H. Donaldson, Christopher Cox, and Elisse B. Walter argue that Warren’s criticisms “reflect[] a misunderstanding of how the SEC operates, and how effectively Ms. White leads the agency.” The letter explains that the chair is but one of five commissioners and “[n]o SEC chairman can personally ensure adoption of any rule, or acceptance of any settlement.” They argue that “[i]n each of the instances Sen. Warren’s letter raises, Ms. White has helped move the agency forward, and demonstrated effective, thoughtful and creative leadership.” The letter also suggests that Warren was unfair to the agency itself, because “[i]f the agency’s successes are not properly credited, the hard work of thousands of SEC employees will be unfairly minimized.” While constructive criticism is helpful, it must “take into account the dynamics of a multi-member regulatory body and the need for effective compromise.”

In a separate letter, former chair Mary Shapiro points to a recent Wall Street Journal article that highlighted the difficulty of obtaining consensus “in an increasingly politicized environment.” Despite the difficulties, Shapiro recognized Chair White’s “strong leadership” and “ample supply” of stamina to advance initiatives “that greatly enhance the protection of investors and the quality of our markets.”