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SEC official Elisse Walter chosen to lead agency

WASHINGTON – President Barack Obama has chosen Elisse Walter, one of five members of the Securities and Exchange Commission, to lead the agency after Chairman Mary Schapiro leaves next month.

She will take over at a critical time for the agency, which is finalizing new rules crafted in response to the 2008 financial crisis.

Walter, a Democrat, can serve through the end of next year without Senate approval because she's already been confirmed to the commission. She was appointed to the SEC in 2008 by President George W. Bush.

Before that, Walter served under Shapiro as a senior official at the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, the securities industry's self-policing organization.

Obama said in a statement: "I'm confident that Elisse's years of experience will serve her well in her new position, and I'm grateful she has agreed to help lead the agency."

Obama previously designated Walter as acting SEC chairman in January 2009 before Schapiro was confirmed and took office.

Schapiro will leave Dec. 14, the SEC said Monday. She was appointed by President Barack Obama in the midst of the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression. She took over after the agency failed to detect the Bernard Madoff Ponzi scheme.

Schapiro is credited with helping reshape the SEC after it was accused of failing to detect reckless investments by many of Wall Street's largest financial institutions before the crisis. And she led an agency that brought civil charges against the nation's largest banks.

But critics argued that she failed to act aggressively to charge leading individuals at those banks who may have contributed to the crisis. Consumer advocates had questioned Schapiro's appointment because she came from the securities industry's self-policing organization, the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority.

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