Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) on Friday called on President Barack Obama to remove one of his top hand-picked financial regulators, saying the current chair of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) had driven the agency off its course.
In a 12-page letter (pdf) to Obama, Warren took aim at SEC chief Mary Jo White, a Republican-leaning Independent who has refused to work on a rule that would enforce transparency in corporate political donations. The Massachusetts senator wrote that White has consistently engaged in "extraordinary, ongoing efforts to undermine the agency's central mission" since her appointment in 2013, and urged Obama to use unilateral authority to oust her and tap a more qualified SEC member.
"I do not make this request lightly," Warren wrote. "I have tried both publicly and privately to persuade Chair White to direct the agency's resources toward pressing matters of compelling interest to investors and the public, and toward completing those rules that Congress has required it to implement. But after years of fruitless efforts, it is clear that Chair White is set on her course. The only way to return the SEC to its intended purpose is to change its leadership."
Under White's leadership, the SEC has removed the political donation rule from its agenda, The Hill notes, describing Warren's call as "a remarkable step."
If she remains in charge, Warren continued, her "brazen conduct" would all but ensure the rule never moves forward.
She also noted that the SEC has yet to implement some lingering Dodd-Frank financial reforms.
Warren initially supported White's appointment to the SEC, but has since become one of her biggest critics over her resistance to corporate transparency and other regulations favored by Wall Street watchdogs. In a congressional hearing in June, Warren said she was "more disappointed than ever" over the commission's failure to implement corporate disclosure rules, which White claimed would burden companies.
"I've never heard of the idea that investors want less information than they're getting," Warren said at the time. "Let's be honest about this. I cannot find and you have not produced a single investor who has complained to the SEC about getting too much information."
In Friday's letter, Warren wrote, "Chair White's unapologetic anti-disclosure posture has also resulted in an SEC that regularly fails to stand up for its own authority and regulations in this area. Her stance has empowered efforts to weaken federal disclosure requirements."
"And she has remained conspicuously silent when your administration has issued veto threats against anti-disclosure bills, providing cover to those in Congress who seek to roll back disclosure requirements and compromise the transparency and safety of our markets," Warren wrote. "Enough is enough."