Obama Picks Schapiro to Head S.E.C.

  • Mary Schapiro '77  

Mary Schapiro ’77 has been tapped by President-elect Barack Obama to chair the Securities and Exchange Commission, the regulatory agency that has been criticized in recent months for failing to prevent the global financial crisis and protect American investors.

Schapiro, 53, currently serves as chief executive officer of the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, a nongovernmental organization that regulates securities firms. She has held that post since 2006.

Although the chair of the Securities and Exchange Commission is not a cabinet-level position, Schapiro will face confirmation by the Senate. The commission is under fire in Congress for its failure to protect investors and detect trouble on Wall Street.

“Clearly, our regulatory system failed to compensate for the failures of market discipline and failed to appreciate the interdependencies of financial institutions and the risks they shared,” Schapiro said in a speech in October at Dominican University in River Forest, Ill.

“The system did not allow regulators to stay ahead of this crisis and prevent it from ever occurring,” she said in the speech.

President Ronald Reagan named Schapiro a commissioner of the S.E.C. in 1988 and reappointed by President George H.W. Bush in 1989. She served as a commissioner for six years, and was named acting chairman by President Bill Clinon in 1993. The following year, President Clinton named her as head of the U.S. Commodities Futures Trading Commission, a regulatory agency.

“If there is anybody who is going to reinvigorate the S.E.C., it is Mary,” David M. Becker, a former general counsel at the agency, told The Washington Post. “I have no doubt that with her leading the S.E.C., it will show its teeth whenever necessary.”

Before her 1988 appointment to the S.E.C., Schapiro served as general counsel and senior vice president for the Futures Industry Association, from 1984 to 1988. From 1981 to 1984, she was counsel and executive assistant to the chairman of the Commodities Futures Trading Commission. For one year prior to that, she served as a trial attorney for the Trading Commission in the manipulation and trade-practice investigations unit of the division of enforcement.

Schapiro majored in anthropology while at F&M. She earned a law degree from George Washington University in 1980.

Schapiro is a member of the College Board of Trustees and a member of the Franklin & Marshall Society of Distinguished Alumni.

To see video of the press conference visit here.

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