President Barack Obama has chosen a former federal prosecutor to replace Mary Schapiro as chairperson of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).
Nominee Mary Jo White was US Attorney for the Southern District of New York from 1993 to 2002, supervising around 200 prosecutors and trying high profile white collar and international terrorism cases.
Schapiro stepped down in November after almost four years in the top watchdog job. Since then, SEC commissioner Elisse Walter has served as designate chair.
White presently heads New York law firm Debevoise & Plimpton's litigation practice. She has also served as a director of the Nasdaq Stock Exchange.
Many observers see Obama's choice - the first prosecutor ever to be nominated as head of the watchdog - as a clear sign he intends the SEC to continue its offensive against the financial services industry.
New York Senator Charles Schumer - an influential Democrat who serves on both the Senate Finance Committee and the Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee - has called White a "fearless, tough-as-nails prosecutor". The President has warned White "does not intimidate easily".
White's nomination will face confirmation by the Senate, where Democrats have widely praised her credentials and Republicans reportedly have no major concerns over the nomination. However, one sticking point could be her representation of firms and people regulated by the SEC, such as Morgan Stanley, J.P. Morgan and Bank of America ex-CEO Ken Lewis.
After obtaining a BA from William & Mary in Virginia, White gained an MA in Psychology from New York's New School for Social Research before receiving her JD from Columbia Law School.
Sommers leaves CFTC
Meantime, Jill Sommers has announced she will step down from her role as the senior Republican commissioner of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC).
"While many challenges remain in finalising the implementation of the Dodd-Frank Act, I have every confidence that the American public will be well-served by [the remaining commissioner's] continuing efforts," the Republican said.
"Along with our fellow Commissioners, Jill has worked to bring common-sense swaps market reforms to life and to safeguard the integrity of the futures market," Gary Gensler, CFTC chairman said. "Jill has been essential to these historic efforts."
A replacement for Sommers has yet to be named. Remaining CFTC commissioners are Bart Chilton (D), Scott O'Malia (R), Mark Wetjen (D).