Walter to Replace Schapiro as SEC Chairperson

As Mary Schapiro prepares to leave her position as the 19th Chairperson of the SEC – U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission – on December 14, her performance in terms of successes and failures is being analyzed in the online and offline press, with much speculation regarding the road forward under her replacement, Elisse Walter. While the two women have often worked cooperatively alongside one another during their Washington-based careers, analysts have noted that they have differing views on some key issues.

In July this year, the SEC voted in favor of a rule requiring the national securities exchanges and FINRA – Financial Industry Regulatory Authority – to establish procedures for a market-wide consolidated audit trail, dubbed ‘CAT’ to enable regulators to more easily monitor trading activity. This would entail exchanges and FINRA working together to submit a combined plan featuring details of how they would firstly develop, then implement and maintain the system that must gather and identify every transaction for all exchange-listed equities and equity options of all US markets. Ms Schapiro reportedly regarded CAT as a notable achievement of her tenure as Chairperson of the SEC, but Ms Walter declared the rule to be ‘overly cautious’, noting that it falls short of the goal of ‘bringing market oversight into the 21st century’.

Appointed by President Barack Obama and taking up her new position on January 27, 2009, Mary Schapiro is the first woman to fill the role of permanent Chairperson of the SEC. Prior to taking up this position, Ms Schapiro had worked in the capacity of a financial services regulator during the presidencies of Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton. She was the Chairperson and CEO of FINRA from 2006, until her appointment as Chairperson of the SEC. Prior to this appointment she had been a proponent for deregulation of the financial industry, but changed her stance when appointed to the SEC, even placing part of the blame for the 2008 financial crisis on deregulation, noting that the regulatory system had failed to keep pace with the markets and investors’ needs and she would advocate tighter regulation of financial instruments.

Currently the SEC is in the process of drafting dozens of new rules in accordance with the 2010 Dodd-Frank reforms, which Ms Walter will have to take over with her new position. Having regularly voted on the side of Ms Schapiro on enforcement cases and new rules, yet expressing contrary views with regard to her colleague’s consolidated audit trail program, investors are no doubt keen to see which direction Ms Walters will steer the Securities and Exchange Commission in the future.