Just a few weeks ago, SEC Chair Mary Jo White’s top political threat was Senator Elizabeth Warren, who had blasted White as “extremely disappointing” and pushed repeatedly for her removal.
That was before Trump.
On Monday, White announced that she’d be stepping down as Wall Street’s top cop at the end of Obama’s term, capping off a historically productive tenure of rulemaking that is likely to be followed up with a regulatory bonfire.
White said she was proud of all of that work – which at this point might as well have been written into a Buddhist sand mandala – and signed off with what could be interpreted as a warning to the coming Trump administration to keep its hands off the agency’s inner workings.
It has been and will always be critical for this agency and the public that the SEC remain truly independent. That independence is crucial to our ability to protect investors, safeguard our markets and facilitate the capital formation that fosters innovation and the growth that is essential to our national economy.
It’s not just the fact of Republican leadership in Washington that might make White reluctant to work under Trump. In private practice with Debevoise and Plimpton, White had at one point served as Trump’s chief antagonist, representing journalist Tim O’Brien in his libel defense against Trump, during which White had the privilege of deposing the real-estate tycoon over the most sensitive of topics: his net worth.
The deposition produced this immortal exchange:
Q: Have you ever not been truthful?
A: My net worth fluctuates, and it goes up and down with markets and with attitudes and with feelings, even my own feelings, but I try.
Q: Let me just understand that a little bit. Let’s talk about net worth for a second. You said that the net worth goes up and down based upon your own feelings?
A: Yes, even my own feelings, as to where the world is, where the world is going, and that can change rapidly from day to day. Then you have a September 11th, and you don’t feel so good about yourself and you don’t feel so good about the world and you don’t feel so good about New York City. Then you have a year later, and the city is as hot as a pistol. Even months after that it was a different feeling.
It’s no surprise White is getting out while the gettin is good.