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Obama nominates prosecutor to head SEC: 'You don't mess with Mary Jo'

Seeking to fill two of his administration’s most powerful financial regulatory posts, President Obama announced his nomination of former prosecutor Mary Jo White to chair the Securities and Exchange Commission and re-nomination of Richard Cordray as head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

White, who spent nearly a decade as Manhattan’s U.S. attorney, is expected to bring regulatory heft to the SEC, whose mission is to “protect investors [and] maintain fair, orderly and efficient markets.”

President Obama introduces Mary Jo White as his choice to head the SEC and re-nominated Richard Cordray to lead the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

As the first prosecutor nominated to the post, White is seen by the Obama administration as someone who can forcefully implement President Obama’s Wall Street-reform plan.

"You don't want to mess with Mary Jo," President Obama said of White during his announcement Thursday. "As one former SEC chairman said, 'Mary Jo does not intimidate easily."

Not only did she win hundreds of millions of dollars in white-collar crime cases, she successfully convicted the masterminds behind the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, and indicted Osama bin Laden for the 1998 bombing of two embassies in Africa.

Underscoring her wide portfolio, she was also the lead prosecutor on the team that convicted mob boss John Gotti of murder and racketeering.

Appointed to her post by President Bill Clinton in 1993, she later was pegged to investigate Clinton’s 177 pardons and commutations he granted during his presidency. She began the investigation as her office began the probe into billionaire Marc Rich, the recipient of Clinton’s most controversial pardon.

Cordray, the former attorney general of Ohio, took the CFPB post in a January 2012 recess appointment, which drew the ire of Senate Republicans who had placed a hold on Cordray’s nomination. At the time, some senators made clear that their resistance to his nomination had more to do with their desire to make changes to the CFPB than it did personal dislike of Cordray.

The former Attorney General of Ohio, Cordray lost his 2010 re-election bid to Republican Mike DeWine, but said at the time that he would soon re-enter politics, telling the New York Times at the time that “I do expect to be running for office in the next cycle.”

He is seen by many Ohio Democrats as a top 2014 Senate or gubernatorial candidate.