The Senate Banking Committee's confirmation hearing for Mary Jo White has concluded after less than two hours. The senators didn't ask her any tough questions, showing great deference without probing too deeply.
It seems clear that White's nomination to lead the Securities and Exchange Commission will sail through the Senate. In addition to White, the committee also heard today from Richard Cordray, who has been renominated to lead the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. That meant less time for questions for White. Even Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts -- who has become a YouTube sensation for her recent grillings of banking and securities regulators -- threw only softballs.
It's too bad the lawmakers chose not to deeply scrutinize White's ties to Wall Street banks, or the well-chronicled conflicts of interest that arise from her work and her financial interests as a partner at the New York law firm Debevoise & Plimpton. Doing so, before the Senate votes on her confirmation, would have been a public service. But that's not what the senators decided to make a priority. When he nominated White in January, President Barack Obama said: "You don't want to mess with Mary Jo." The committee members took his advice.
White will have to earn the investing public's trust, and here's hoping she does. The SEC surely needs it.
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