by Staff Writer on March 21, 2012
After President Obama in 2009 appointed Mary Schapiro to become the 29th chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission, she hung a sign in her office with this message: “How does it help investors” This ethos — conceptually simple if often devilishly complex in its application — is the lens through which Schapiro views every agency task.
I interviewed Schapiro after she spoke at the annual seminar of the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association (SIFMA) Compliance and Legal Society. In her keynote address, she underscored the SEC’s mission to protect investors, while balancing the need to create an environment where financial institutions can operate efficiently and contribute to the growth of the U.S. economy.
Her audience was filled with the corporate lawyers and compliance professionals who often spar with the SEC over multi-million dollar enforcement cases. But as another speaker, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York Preet Bhara, noted, the crisis-weary group often faces a no-win proposition: Such executives are often seen as “pariahs” or “tattle-tales” within their companies, when in fact regulators desperately need them to be the gatekeepers of their organizations’ ethical standards.
The problem is that many of these underappreciated attorneys (one of whom is my partner, a member of SIFMA C&L and a moderator of a panel at the seminar,) have to convince the revenue-generators in their firms, who see new rules and regulations as an impediment to making money. Schapiro understands the push-pull of these organizations. Prior to becoming SEC chief, she was CEO of the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA), the largest non-governmental regulator for the securities industry, and previously served as chairman of the Commodities Futures Trading Commission (CFTC).
Jill Schlesinger, CBS News, March 21, 2012