New SEC Chairman Will Bring Little Change, Analysts Say

With Mary Schapiro, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) chairman, stepping down next month, industry leaders said the choice of Commissioner Elisse Walter (pictured at right) to take her place would bring little change to the much-maligned agency.

Schapiro, who was appointed by President Obama in 2009, took office to navigate the U.S. government’s response to Wall Street abuses and the 2008 financial crisis. The SEC is the federal agency responsible for regulating the securities industry, including the stock market, and enforcing federal securities laws. Within months of taking office, Schapiro was saddled with handling the SEC’s debacle over the Bernard Madoff ponzi scheme and other reckless investors. Schapiro, 57, will step down on Dec. 14.

Schapiro Had Detractors and Supporters

While Schapiro is credited with reshaping the SEC following tumultuous times, she was also criticized for failing to preserve the SEC’s main mission of protecting investors and maintaining effective markets. In October, a prominent measure of investor confidence, the State Street global confidence index, dropped to its lowest level since the index began in 1998. Some said investors lacked trust and certainty in the markets during her tenure.

At the same time, Schapiro’s backers said she was tasked with a job of impossibilities and sometimes faced insurmountable odds. She often faced sharply critical attacks from Congress and had to wrestle with unfriendly courts. Her supporters are quick to point out that despite the challenges, she thrived. In July 2010, Goldman Sachs & Co. agreed to pay $550 million to settle civil fraud charges that it misled investors. Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase and others followed suit.

“When Mary agreed to serve … she was fully aware of the difficulties facing the SEC and our economy as a whole,” Obama said in a written statement Monday. “But she accepted the challenge, and today, the SEC is stronger and our financial system is safer and better able to serve the American people – thanks in large part to Mary’s hard work.”

For better or worse, many see Walter as more of the same.  She was often seen as Schapiro’s confidant and right-hand person.

Appointment Does Not Require Senate Approval

Walter, 62, started her career as a private-practice attorney. She joined the SEC staff in 1997, working in the Division of Corporate Finance and the Office of the General Counsel. In 2008, she was appointed to the SEC commission. Because she is already a commission member, her appointment as the new chairman will not have to undergo Senate approval. When her term ends in December 2013, Obama will nominate a permanent successor, who could be Mary John Miller, a top Treasury Department official.

Walter’s tenure begins during a tenuous time for the SEC, as the agency finalizes new rules in response to the 2008 financial crisis, called the Dodd-Frank reform. Walters is expected to follow in her former boss’s footsteps, with no major changes or disruptions.

Bill “No Pay” Fay has lived a meager financial existence his entire life. He started writing/bragging about it seven years ago, helping birth Debt.org into existence as the site’s original “Frugal Man.” Prior to that, he spent more than 30 years covering college and professional sports, which are the fantasy worlds of finance. His work has been published by the Associated Press, New York Times, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, Sports Illustrated and Sporting News, among others. His interest in sports has waned some, but his interest in never reaching for his wallet is as passionate as ever. Bill can be reached at bfay@debt.org.

Elisse Walter to lead SEC

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    Sources:

    1. Gordon, M. (2012, November 26). “SEC official Elisse Walter chosen to lead agency.” Yahoo News. Retrieved from http://news.yahoo.com/sec-official-elisse-walter-chosen-lead-agency-172959116--finance.html;_ylt=A2KJ3CcN.7RQ7BUA0xnQtDMD
    2. Schmidt, R. (2012, November 27). “Elisse Walter Steps Out of Schapiro Shadow Into SEC Chairmanship.” Bloomberg News. Retrieved from http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-11-27/elisse-walter-steps-out-of-schapiro-shadow-into-sec-chairmanship.html