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Warren to Obama: Replace SEC's White

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(Bloomberg) -- Sen. Elizabeth Warren has taken her disapproval of SEC Chairwoman Mary Jo White to a new level by calling on President Obama to replace her.

The Massachusetts Democrat urged Obama to use his authority to demote White and make one of the other SEC commissioners chair, arguing that White hasn't pursued rules that would force corporate donors to disclose political contributions, according to an Oct. 14 letter addressed to the president. White's refusal to take a stand hurts investors and has undermined the administration's own policy to address political disclosures, Warren said.

"I do not make this request lightly," Warren wrote. "The only way to return the SEC to its intended purpose is to change its leadership."

In response, White House spokesman Eric Schultz told reporters Friday that "the president continues to believe that Chair White is the right leader" for the agency.

But should Obama follow White's advice, his choices for a replacement may be limited. Only three of the SEC's five seats are currently filled. In addition to White, the two commissioners are Kara Stein, a Democrat, and Michael Piwowar, a Republican. SEC chairs routinely step down after a new president takes office.

Gina Talamona, a spokeswoman for White, declined to comment.


Warren has been a frequent critic of White, attacking her over what she sees as the agency's failure to go after wrongdoers as well as the political disclosures rule. She told Bloomberg News earlier this year that White is one of the biggest disappointments in the Obama administration and sparred publicly with the SEC chairwoman at a Senate hearing in June.

When Obama nominated White in 2013, he said the former federal prosecutor had the experience and resolve to root out reckless conduct on Wall Street. He added that she had a reputation for being tough, saying, "You don't want to mess with Mary Jo."

Warren's letter to Obama — whose term ends in January — foreshadows how the senator will likely attempt to influence the next president's cabinet and other key nominations, particularly if Hillary Clinton wins and the Democrats control the Senate. Several positions that are important to Wall Street, including chair of the SEC, must be affirmed by the Senate Banking Committee, where Warren is a member. Warren has successfully blocked prior candidates that didn't fit her criteria.

Bloomberg News