Observers say SEC in good hands with new chairwoman

Elisse B. Walter
Elisse B. Walter

Incoming SEC Chairwoman Elisse B. Walter will lead a smooth transition for the agency when outgoing chairwoman Mary L. Schapiro departs Dec. 14, observers say.

Ms. Walter, who has been an SEC commissioner since 2008, was selected Monday by President Barack Obama to replace Ms. Schapiro as chairwoman.

“It was a very smart and logical move on his part,” said Harvey L. Pitt, CEO of global business consulting firm Kalorama Partners and SEC chairman from 2001-2003. “She's got a broad brush of experience, she is a consensus-builder, and she really cares about investor protection,” Mr. Pitt said in an interview.

“The goal is to get the agency to continue to make progress on the enormous rulemaking obligations it has, and Elisse is particularly qualified to do that,” he said.

Along with a daunting number of regulations dictated by the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, Ms. Walter will also have to struggle with the lack of additional funding for that work.

“Probably the biggest challenge is the budget,” said Kurt Schacht, CFA Institute's managing director of its standards and financial market integrity division, in an interview. “It's going to be a major challenge, but she is a regulator who has been around the block. She brings a terrific level of continuity.”

Mr. Schacht said one top priority for Ms. Walter will be addressing systemic risk in financial markets.

Ms. Walter was appointed commissioner by President George W. Bush in 2008, but her SEC tenure dates back to 1977, when she served in the division of corporation finance and the general counsel's office until 1994. Before returning to the SEC as a commissioner, Ms. Walter was senior executive vice president in charge of regulatory policy for FINRA, among other positions.