Walter, who had already been confirmed by the Senate as a commissioner, did not need to be re-confirmed to take over from Schapiro on December 14. She has until Dec. 31 2013, when her term ends, to get the rule-making jobs done. But how long she will actually serve remains a mystery. She may stay longer, if the Obama administration decides to re-nominate her at the end of her term. However, published reports have said that the White House is interviewing candidates to take over when Walter steps down. Adding to the difficulty of her political task, Washington watchers say that with the SEC board being evenly split between two Democrats and two Republicans, gridlock is likely.
10. Sen. Elizabeth Warren
The rematch is on. All eyes in the financial world will be on the Senate Banking Committee to see if it will welcome the newly elected junior Senator from Massachusetts, Elizabeth Warren, to its ranks.
For Warren, a Democrat, Harvard law professor and expert in both banks and bankruptcy, November's triumph is a sweet vindication. Last year, the outspoken critic of the financial services industry saw her nomination to be the first director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau—an agency she designed—scuppered by Republicans. If she is assigned to the Senate Banking Committee, she will bring to the panel a strong voice for tighter regulation of financial services. She has advocated a new, modern version of the Glass-Steagall Act, which separated commercial banking from investment banking and brokerage in the wake of the 1929 stock market crash.
"Wall Street's risky bets nearly brought the economy to its knees in 2008, but instead of taking responsibility, Wall Street lobbied to water down the Dodd-Frank financial reforms of 2010 and fought to weaken the reforms Congress passed," she said in an August statement. "By making banks smaller, a new Glass-Steagall could also help put an end to banks that are 'too big to fail' and reduce the risk of more taxpayer bailouts," she added.
She has also called for sharpening the Volcker Rule, in a bid to stop big banks from trading for profit. She has maintained that they should not be allowed to continue proprietary trading with the backing of the federal government's low Fed funds rate and deposit insurance. "Banking should be boring," was a frequent refrain during her campaign against Republican Scott Brown. She declared herself as the "cop on the beat" keeping tabs on big banks. Her mission: "To make sure no one steals your purse on Main Street and no one steals your pension on Wall Street."
While the industry's lobbyists have aligned against the self-styled cop joining the panel, it is undeniable that she brings experience along with her skepticism. From 2008 to 2010 she chaired the Congressional Oversight Panel in charge of the bank bailouts during the financial crisis.
Earlier this year, Warren called for J.P. Morgan chief Jamie Dimon to step down from his post at the New York Federal Reserve board after his firm lost $2 billion on a derivatives trade. The move would "send a signal to the American people that Wall Street bankers get it and to show that they understand the need for responsibility and accountability," Warren said.