When Mary Jo White's nomination to head the Securities and Exchange Commission goes before the Senate Banking Committee today for a vote, she's expected to sail through despite the questions have been raised about the prosecutor-turned-corporate lawyer's deep ties to the financial community that President Barack Obama has tapped her to watchdog.
While White will be required to recuse herself from matters related to her recent clients if she's confirmed, the same doesn't hold true for lawmakers who will be voting on her confirmation. And it turns out that many members of the banking panel voting today have enjoyed the largesse of some of the same corporations that White has represented.
The graphic above shows, in green, corporations and organizations that White listed as recent clients she represented with the law firm Debevoise and Plimpton whose PACs and executives also gave to committee members, according to a search on Influence Explorer. The recipients of the campaign cash are shown in blue (for Democratic senators) and red (for Republicans). The thicker the lines between them and the companies, the larger the donations. For example, JPMorgan Chase, which White represented on matters related to the financial crisis, distributed more than $190,000 to committee members from 2007 to 2012. Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu, UBS AG, and Verizon Communications all gave more than $200,000 apiece.
This web of giving, receiving, and representing demonstrates how closely connected the government is to the industry it regulates–particularly significant for an agency that has been criticized by watchdogs for being weak on Wall Street after the 2008 financial crisis.
Questions have also been raised about potential conflicts related to White's husband, John White. John White formerly worked as head of the SEC's Corporation Finance Division, and is now a partner for Cravath, Swayne & Moore, where he represents financial clients. The Whites announced that he would convert from equity to nonequity status to help avoid possibility of a conflict. Together the Whites have amassed assets worth at least $16 million, according to her disclosure form.
White told senators at her confirmation hearing last week that SEC lawyers had determined that the scope of the enforcement cases where she would need to recuse herself was "quite narrow" and that she was sure she could be a tough cop on Wall Street despite her past." White said her work "does not change me as a person. It doesn't mean I embrace the policy thoughts of any of my clients…The American public will be my client, and I will work as zealously as is possible on behalf of them."
See the complete list of contributions by Mary Jo White clients to members of the Senate Banking Committee below.
(Graphic by Zander Furnas/Sunlight Foundation)