State Dining Room
2:38 P.M. EST
THE PRESIDENT: Good afternoon, everybody. Over the last four years, I’ve talked about how shared prosperity -- from Wall Street to Main Street -- depends on smart, common-sense regulations that protect the vast majority of Americans from the irresponsible actions of a few.
That’s why we passed tough reforms to protect consumers and our financial system from the kinds of abuse that nearly brought the economy to its knees. Today, there are rules to help families -- responsible families buy a home or send their child to college without worrying about being tricked out of their life savings. There are rules to make sure that financial firms which do the right thing aren’t undermined by those that don't do the right thing. And there are rules to end taxpayer-funded Wall Street bailouts once and for all.
But it’s not enough to change the law. We also need cops on the beat to enforce the law. And that’s why, today, I am nominating Mary Jo White to lead the Security and Exchange Commission, and Richard Cordray to continue leading the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
This guy is bothering me here -- (swatting at a fly.)
As a young girl, Mary Jo White was a big fan of the Hardy Boys. I was, too, by the way.
MS. WHITE: Good. Good.
THE PRESIDENT: Yes. As an adult, she’s built a career the Hardy Boys could only dream of. Over a decade as a U.S. Attorney in New York, she helped prosecute white-collar criminals and money launderers. In the early 1990s, she brought down John Gotti, the head of the Gambino crime syndicate. And she brought to justice the terrorists responsible for bombing the World Trade Center and the American embassies in Africa. So I’d say that’s a pretty good run. You don't want to mess with Mary Jo.
As one former SEC chairman said, Mary Jo “does not intimidate easily.” And that’s important, because she has a big job ahead of her. The SEC played a critical role in protecting our financial system during the worst of the financial crisis. But there’s much more work to be done to complete the task of reforming Wall Street and making sure that American investors are better informed and better protected going forward. And we need to keep going after irresponsible behavior in the financial industry so that taxpayers don’t pay the price.
I am absolutely confident that Mary Jo has the experience and the resolve to tackle these complex issues and protect the American people in a way that is smart and in a way that is fair.
And I want to thank Elisse Walter, who has done an outstanding job holding down the fort as chairwoman. And I expect the Senate to confirm Mary Jo as soon as possible so she can get to work.
My second nominee is a familiar face. A year and a half ago, I nominated Richard Cordray to lead the watchdog agency we created to give Americans the information they need to make sound financial choices and protect them from unscrupulous lenders and debt collectors.
As a former attorney general of Ohio with a long record of working with Democrats and Republicans on behalf of the American people, nobody questioned Richard’s qualifications. But he wasn’t allowed an up or down vote in the Senate, and as a consequence, I took action to appoint him on my own. And over the last year, Richard has proved to be a champion of American consumers.
Thanks to his leadership, we’ve made it tougher for families to be tricked into mortgages they can’t afford. We’ve set clearer rules so that responsible lenders know how to operate fairly. We’ve launched a “Know Before You Owe” campaign to help parents and students make smart decisions about paying for college. We’ve cracked down on credit card companies that charge hidden fees, and forced those companies to make things right. And through it all, Richard has earned a reputation as a straight shooter and somebody who’s willing to bring every voice to the table in order to do what’s right for consumers and our economy.
Now, Richard’s appointment runs out at the end of the year, and he can’t stay on the job unless the Senate finally gives him the vote that he deserves. Financial institutions have plenty of lobbyists looking out for their interests. The American people need Richard to keep standing up for them. And there’s absolutely no excuse for the Senate to wait any longer to confirm him.
So I want to thank Mary Jo, Richard, and their families once again for agreeing to serve. And now I’d like to invite them to say a few words, starting with Mary Jo.
MS. WHITE: Thank you, Mr. President, for the confidence that you have placed in me and the faith that you’ve shown in me by nominating me to be the next chair of the Securities and Exchange Commission. I’m deeply, deeply honored.
If confirmed by the Senate, I look forward to committing all of my energies to working with my fellow commissioners and the extremely dedicated and talented men and women of the staff of the SEC to fulfill the agency’s mission to protect investors, and to ensure the strength, efficiency, and the transparency of our capital markets.
The SEC, long a vital and positive force for the markets, has a lot of hard and important work ahead of it. I would welcome the opportunity to lead those efforts and to build on the work of Chairman Mary Shapiro and Chairman Elisse Walter, who I’m very honored is present today.
And finally, and most importantly, I want to thank my husband, John White, who is here today, on what is our 43rd anniversary --
THE PRESIDENT: Today?
MS. WHITE: -- today -- for his strong support of me in seeking to engage in this very significant and challenging public service.
Thank you very much.
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you.
MR. CORDRAY: Thank you, Mr. President, for the confidence you’ve placed in me and our team at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. We understand that our mission is to stand on the side of consumers -- our mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers, sons and daughters -- and see that they’re treated fairly.
For more than a year, we’ve been focused on making consumer finance markets work better for the American people. We approach this work with open minds, open ears, and great determination.
We all thank you and the Congress for the opportunity and the honor to serve our country in this important way. Thank you.
THE PRESIDENT: Well, I just want to thank again Mary Jo and Richard for their willingness to serve. These are people with proven track records. They are going to look out for the American people, for American consumers, and make sure that our marketplace works better -- more transparently, more efficiently, more effectively. So I again would urge the Senate to confirm both of them as quickly as possible.
And I also want to express congratulations to the Whites for their anniversary. If I had known, we would have maybe rolled out a cake or something. (Laughter.) But have fun.
MS. WHITE: Thank you.
THE PRESIDENT: I hope you enjoy it.
2:46 P.M. EST