NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- When President Barack Obama nominated Mary Jo White to chair the Securities and Exchange Commission in 2013, he had strong words for potential rule-breakers: "You don't want to mess with Mary Jo."
But ignoring the president's warning hasn't carried the consequences it might have, in U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren's opinion. Since White's confirmation, many companies have still been allowed to settle SEC cases without admitting guilt, and the agency has continued to grant waivers allowing violators to do business as usual, Warren said in a 13-page letter on Tuesday.
"To date, your leadership of the Commission has been extremely disappointing," Warren, D-Mass., wrote in a critique that also took White to task for not yet finalizing rules mandated by the Dodd-Frank financial reform bill that would require companies to compare executives' pay with median worker salaries. "You have not been the strong leader that many hoped for -- and that you promised to be," she said.
White defended her record in a written statement and said Warren had described her tenure at the SEC inaccurately.
"I am very proud of the agency's achievements under my leadership, including our record year in enforcement," the chairwoman said. White's early career in regulation included a stint as the First Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York and she was later named U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York. Before joining the SEC, White was a partner at Debevoise & Plimpton, a Manhattan firm whose clients include Morgan Stanley.
"Sen. Warren's mischaracterization of my statements and the agency's accomplishments is unfortunate, but it will not detract from the work we have done, and will continue to do, on behalf of investors," the SEC chief said.