Schapiro to Exit SEC, Walter Named Chairman

Updated with comments from Lawrence D. Kaplan, of counsel in the Corporate practice of Paul Hastings in Washington, and Frank A. Mayer, III, a partner in the Financial Services Practice Group of Pepper Hamilton LLP, in the firm's Philadelphia office.

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Securities and Exchange Commission Chairman Mary Schapiro is resigning, effective Dec. 14.

President Obama said that he was "pleased to designate Elisse Walter as SEC Chairman after Mary's departure. I'm confident that Elisse's years of experience will serve her well in her new position, and I'm grateful she has agreed to help lead the agency."

Walter was appointed by President George W. Bush to the Commission in 2008 served as acting chairman during January 2009, according to the SEC web site.

Schapiro, who became the SEC Chairman in January 2009, said in a press release Monday called her experience "incredibly rewarding," and touted "a record number of enforcement actions," as the agency "engaged in one of the busiest rulemaking periods, and gained greater authority from Congress to better fulfill our mission."

Major enforcement actions by the SEC during Schapiro's tenure have included the October 2010 settlement of a lawsuit against former Countrywide Financial CEO Angelo Mozilo, who agreed to pay $22.5 million to "settle SEC charges that he and two other former Countrywide executives misled investors as the subprime mortgage crisis emerged." Mozilo also agreed to "$45 million in disgorgement of ill-gotten gains to settle the SEC's disclosure violation and insider trading charges against him." Bank of America ( BAC) purchased Countrywide in 2008.

Earlier in 2010, Judge Jed S. Rakoff of the Southern District of New York approved the SEC's $150 million settlement with Bank of America over charges that the bank had mislead investors leading up to its acquisition of Merrill Lynch in January 2010. Rakoff had rejected an earlier, smaller settlement.

Another very high profile success for Schapiro was the successful outcome of criminal charges against Galleon Group and its founder Raj Rajaratnam for insider trading. Rajaratnam was convicted in May 2011 of all 14 insider trading charges against him, and sentenced to 11 years in prison.

The SEC said that under Schaprio's leadership, the agency "has brought more enforcement actions than ever before, including 735 enforcement actions in fiscal year 2011 and 734 actions in FY 2012."

Schapiro also oversaw "one of the busiest rulemaking periods in decades," as the agency worked to implement the Dodd Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, signed into law by President Obama in August 2010.

The SEC said that because of Dodd-Frank, it has "implemented a new whistleblower program, strengthened regulation of asset-backed securities, laid the foundation for an entirely new regulatory regime for the previously-unregulated derivatives market, and required advisers to hedge funds and other private funds to register and be subject to SEC rules."

Schapiro said she was "amazed by how hard the men and women of the agency work each and every day and by the sacrifices they make to get the job done."

"So often they stay late or come in on weekends to polish a legal brief, review a corporate filing, write new rules, or reconstruct trading events. And despite the complexity and the intense scrutiny, they always excel at what they do."

President Obama expressed his gratitude to Schapiro in a statements, saying "When Mary agreed to serve nearly four years ago, she was fully aware of the difficulties facing the SEC and our economy as a whole. But she accepted the challenge, and today, the SEC is stronger and our financial system is safer and better able to serve the American people - thanks in large part to Mary's hard work.

Lawrence D. Kaplan -- a banking attorney who advises on regulatory issues for Paul Hastings in the firm's Washington office -- says he expected "that the President would appoint someone who is already a commissioner," which should ease Walter's confirmation in the Senate, since "she has already been confirmed by the Senate as a commissioner."

"The Commission can still operate with a vacancy," Kaplan says, "and the president is assured of having a new Chairmean who from day one is familiar with all of the issues on the SEC's agenda, and then can focus on the Commission vacancy created by the elevation of Commissioner Walter."

Kaplan added that "Schapiro has had a lot of accomplishments, primarily in implementing Dodd-Frank and overseeing the markets in one of the most challenging periods for the economy."

Frank A. Mayer, III -- a partner in the Financial Services Practice Group of Pepper Hamilton LLP, in the firm's Philadelphia office -- says "Elise Walter has been in securities regulation for a long time and I would not expect there to be any change in focus or intensity at the SEC under her watch."

-- Written by Philip van Doorn in Jupiter, Fla.

>Contact by Email.

Philip W. van Doorn is a member of TheStreet's banking and finance team, commenting on industry and regulatory trends. He previously served as the senior analyst for TheStreet.com Ratings, responsible for assigning financial strength ratings to banks and savings and loan institutions. Mr. van Doorn previously served as a loan operations officer at Riverside National Bank in Fort Pierce, Fla., and as a credit analyst at the Federal Home Loan Bank of New York, where he monitored banks in New York, New Jersey and Puerto Rico. Mr. van Doorn has additional experience in the mutual fund and computer software industries. He holds a bachelor of science in business administration from Long Island University.

More from Stocks

Stocks Waver Amid Progress on U.S.-China Trade; Dow Slips

Stocks Waver Amid Progress on U.S.-China Trade; Dow Slips

Stacey Cunningham: From Intern to Head of the New York Stock Exchange

Stacey Cunningham: From Intern to Head of the New York Stock Exchange

WATCH LIVE: Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg Appears Before European Parliament

WATCH LIVE: Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg Appears Before European Parliament

Jim Cramer: Schlumberger Predicted the Rise in Oil Prices

Jim Cramer: Schlumberger Predicted the Rise in Oil Prices

Jim Cramer on Zillow's New Business: Buying and Selling Homes

Jim Cramer on Zillow's New Business: Buying and Selling Homes