Washington Babylon — December 18, 2008, 10:33 am

New SEC Chair Caps Week Of Uninspired Obama Picks

I don’t know a lot about Mary Schapiro, Obama’s pick to head the Securities and Exchange Commission, but her bio doesn’t inspire a lot of confidence. Originally appointed to the SEC by Ronald Reagan. Named to the Commodity Futures Trading Commission by Bill Clinton. Currently “the chief executive officer of the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, the securities and brokerage industry’s self-policing organization.”

Consider these brief excerpts from two old news articles:

1/ This one is from 1994: “The new head of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission yesterday vowed that the CFTC would no longer be ‘a sleepy little agency’ and outlined an ambitious program for revitalizing the commission, starting with a drive to police the all-but-unregulated market in derivatives. CFTC Chairman Mary Schapiro said the agency will reconsider the decision made during the Bush administration to exempt derivatives from most federal regulation. She also said the CFTC will use its fraud-fighting power to go after Wall Street firms that have lured local government and corporations into derivatives investments that have produced losses running into the billions of dollars.”

2/ And this one is from 1996, when she bailed out with her sleepy agency in an even deeper slumber. “Mary Schapiro has resigned after serving for only 15 months as chairman of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC). She has accepted an offer to head the new regulatory arm of the National Assn. of Securities Dealers (NASD). She insists that her decision was not influenced in any way by the higher salary offered by the NASD.”

This after Tom “Mr. Ethanol” Vilsack was named as Agriculture Secretary and Republican Ray “Porkbarrel” LaHood gets the nod as Transportation Secretary.

Update: And here’s another interesting article about Schapiro. She was a real pit bull on derivatives trading while in government:

The Commodity Futures Trading Commission said today that a 1995 ruling did not expand its regulatory powers to include certain derivative contracts. Mary L. Schapiro, the commission’s chairwoman, wrote to two Representatives about the agency’s $2.25 million fine against a German conglomerate, Metallgesellschaft A.G., last July, and argued that it represented no change from the agency’s 1989 decree that swaps contracts were exempt from agency scrutiny.

The ruling had ignited concern on Wall Street, and by two key members of Congress, Representative Pat Roberts, a Republican from Kansas, and Representative Thomas J. Bliley Jr., a Republican from Virginia. They and Wall Street bankers were concerned that the agency’s decision cast a cloud over the legal standing of many of the contracts that make up the $14 trillion derivatives market. They were also concerned that the agency was attempting to take authority over a big, expanding market and would drive up the cost of doing business with extra regulations.

Ms. Schapiro said the agency entered the case because the company’s mounting trading losses “threatened the stability and integrity of the futures markets,” not because of a desire to expand regulation of derivatives…

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I first heard the name Barack Obama in the spring of 2004, while visiting my mother in Chicago. As we sat around the kitchen table early one spring morning, I noticed a handsome studio portrait among the pictures, lists, cards, and other totems of family life fastened to the refrigerator door. “Who’s the guy with the ears?” I asked, assuming he was some distant relative or family friend I didn’t know or else had forgotten. “Barack Obama,” she answered with a broad smile. “He’s running for Senate, but he’s going to be the first black president.”

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