Mary Schapiro, President-elect Obama’s choice to run the Securities and Exchange Commission, will begin her confirmation hearings this week before the Senate Banking Committee.
Schapiro has headed the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority since 2006 (when it was known as NASD). Her selection in December was generally well-received by industry experts, who believed her appointment could lead to needed changes in the way the SEC is run.
Schapiro, who led the effort to consolidate NASD with NYSE Member Regulation to form FINRA, is known as a strong proponent of regulatory oversight. She was thought to be a prime force behind some of NASD’s meetings-related enforcement efforts, such as the investigation into gift-giving and entertainment practices on Wall Street.
Her potential impact on regulatory compliance issues that affect meetings, events, and incentives is unclear. Experts agree that her mission will be to strengthen the agency’s enforcement program from top to bottom.
Amy Greer, a former attorney with the SEC Enforcement Division and now a partner in the law firm Reed Smith, believes Schapiro’s impact on the SEC “is likely to be broad-based, by necessity. She is coming into an agency that has been battered by recent events, [with] some calling into question its ability to carry out its mission and the effectiveness of the tools it has at its disposal in order to discharge its obligations to investors.”
Schapiro is also facing a number of vacancies in key leadership positions within the SEC, says Greer. “Filling those positions, and perhaps others as she may deem necessary, will take a good bit of time and mean that most specific regulatory areas, not already in the works, are likely to wait until the leadership team is fully in place and in a position to really evaluate new regulatory initiatives.”
While Schapiro is expected to win confirmation, she may receive some tough questioning on a number of issues, particularly from senators concerned about the SEC and FINRA’s failure to uncover the massive fraud allegedly perpetrated by Bernard Madoff. Schapiro is also the target of two lawsuits alleging she made misleading statements in order to hasten the merger of NASD and NYSE Member Regulation. In an article in the New York Times Monday, an attorney for Schapiro and FINRA called the suits “meritless.”
If Shapiro is confirmed, she will certainly be welcome within the SEC, says a former SEC attorney who asked to remain anonymous. “People at the SEC are delighted by the appointment. From their perspective she can’t get there fast enough.”