SEC nominee talks tough

Mary Jo White vowed Tuesday to make “bold and unrelenting” enforcement of Wall Street a high priority if she is confirmed as chairwoman of the Securities and Exchange Commission.

The former federal prosecutor told a Senate panel that investors need to know the playing field is level and that wrongdoers will be “aggressively and successfully” pursued.

White also pledged to avoid potential conflicts of interest from her work over the past decade as a corporate litigator.

“Strong enforcement is necessary for investor confidence and is essential to the integrity of our financial markets,” White, 65, said during a two-hour confirmation hearing before the Senate Banking Committee.

She is expected win confirmation from the panel and the full Senate, becoming the first prosecutor to lead the SEC. She would replace Elisse Walter, who has been interim chairman since Mary Schapiro resigned in December.

Senators also questioned Richard Cordray, who was renominated by Obama to head the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

His confirmation is less certain. Many Republicans opposed the creation of the agency in 2010 and want to limit his power.

Chairman Tim Johnson, D-S.D., said after the hearing that the panel would vote on both nominations “as soon as possible.” Still, he noted that Republican objections to the consumer agency could hold up the vote.

White served as the U.S. attorney in Manhattan from 1993 through 2002. By nominating her to the post, President Barack Obama sent a signal that he wants the government to get tougher with Wall Street.