The SEC announced Wednesday that Mary Jo White was sworn in as its 31st chairman.
She was nominated by President Obama on Feb. 7 and confirmed by the U.S. Senate on April 8.
"It is an honor to lead the talented and dedicated SEC staff on behalf of America's investors and markets," White said in a statement. "Our markets are the envy of the world precisely because of the SEC's work effectively regulating the markets, requiring comprehensive disclosure, and vigorously enforcing the securities laws."
White succeeds Mary Schapiro, who stepped down on Dec. 14 after serving at the SEC’s helm since 2009 as the agency’s first female chairman.
SEC Commissioner Elisse Walter was serving as chairman in the interim.
The SEC said White specialized in prosecuting complex securities and financial institution frauds and international terrorism cases when she served as the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York from 1993 to 2002.
Under her leadership, the office won convictions against the terrorists responsible for the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center and the bombings of American embassies in Africa.
Prior to becoming the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, White served as the first assistant U.S. attorney and later acting U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of New York from 1990 to 1993.
White also previously served as an assistant U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York from 1978 to 1981 and became chief appellate attorney of the criminal division.
After leaving her U.S. attorney post, White became chair of the litigation department at Debevoise & Plimpton in New York, where she led a team of more than 200 lawyers. She previously was a litigation partner at the firm from 1983 to 1990 and worked as an associate from 1976 to 1978.
White earned her undergraduate degree, Phi Beta Kappa, from William & Mary in 1970 and her master's degree in psychology from The New School for Social Research in 1971. She earned her law degree in 1974 at Columbia Law School.
The SEC said White has won numerous awards in recognition of her outstanding work both as a prosecutor and a securities lawyer. The 2012 Chambers USA Women in Law Awards named her Regulatory Lawyer of the Year.
Among other honors she has received are the Margaret Brent Women Lawyers of Achievement Award, the George W. Bush Award for Excellence in Counterterrorism, the Sandra Day O’Connor Award for Distinction in Public Service, and the “Women of Power and Influence Award” given by the National Organization for Women.
White is also a fellow in the American College of Trial Lawyers and the International College of Trial Lawyers. She also has served as a director of the NASDAQ Stock Exchange and on its executive, audit, and policy committees and is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations.