Group Calls For SEC Chair’s Recusal On PCAOB Decision

Because her husband advises the PCAOB, SEC Chair Mary Jo White should recuse herself from picking its next chairman, says one advocacy group.
Katie Kuehner-HebertSeptember 17, 2015
Group Calls For SEC Chair’s Recusal On PCAOB Decision

The Center for Effective Government is calling for U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission Chair Mary Jo White to recuse herself from choosing the next head the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board, because White’s husband sits on the board’s advisory group.

While the position is unpaid, it gives John White regular access to top PCAOB officials, according to Bloomberg. His law firm, Cravath, Swaine & Moore, highlights the role in marketing materials.

“The White family has to deal with this conflict,” said Jeff Hauser, who runs the Revolving Door Project at the Washington-based center that promotes government transparency and accountability. “It makes Mary Jo White’s role choosing PCAOB officials problematic.”

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Hauser told Bloomberg that he was concerned that White will help pick the chairman of the board who is then ultimately responsible for John White’s job on the advisory panel. There is at least the appearance of a conflict of interest, Hauser said.

White has had to recuse herself from a number of enforcement actions where Cravath has been involved as a legal counsel, according to Bloomberg. That has delayed some settlements at the agency.

“The accounting-board appointment is shaping up to be another politically dicey situation for SEC Chair White,” Bloomberg wrote.

Last June, Sen. Elizabeth Warren criticized White for having to recuse herself from some agency matters because of her former employment on Wall Street and her husband’s job at Cravath.