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Name: Walter, Elisse
Current Position: Former Acting Chair

Elisse B. Walter is following Mary L. Schapiro again. In the wake of Schapiro’s resignation as chair of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), Walter, who has twice taken new jobs in order to follow Schapiro, was appointed by President Barack Obama to serve as acting chair, which she also did, albeit briefly, in January 2009. Appointed to the SEC by President George W. Bush in July 2008 to a term that ran out in June 2012, under SEC rules Walter can stay 18 months after her term ends, allowing her to serve as acting chair until December 2013 before needing Senate confirmation to keep the post.


Born April 14, 1950, in New York City and raised by her parents, a language teacher and an accountant, Walter’s two childhood dreams were to be a United Nations translator and a mathematician. She graduated from Herricks High School in New Hyde Park, Long Island, in 1967. After briefly attending Brown University, Walter earned a B.A. in mathematics at Yale University in 1971 and a J.D. at Harvard Law School in 1974, citing the “politically turbulent times” to explain her career shift.


Walter practiced law at a private firm before joining the SEC in 1977. At SEC, Walter rose to become associate general counsel and deputy director of the Division of Corporation Finance. Walter left the SEC in 1994 at the request of Mary Schapiro, who had become her mentor at SEC, to serve as general counsel of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission.


Following Schapiro again, in 1996 Walter left public service to work for the National Association of Securities Dealers (NASD), then the nation’s largest private-sector regulator of securities firms, where she was senior executive vice president for Regulatory Policy & Programs, a job she kept when NASD merged with New York Stock Exchange Member Regulation in 2007 to form the non-governmental Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA).


Walter returned to the SEC in July 2008, appointed a commissioner by President George W. Bush to serve in one of the two seats reserved for Democrats. In January 2011, she was criticized for conflict of interest by the Project on Government Oversight for urging that the SEC delegate some of its regulatory power over investment advisors to FINRA.


Walter is a member of the Academy of Women Achievers of the YWCA of the City of New York and the inaugural class of the American Bar Association’s DirectWomen Institute.


A Democrat, Walter has contributed $13,350 to Democratic candidates and causes since 1996, including $5,000 to the Democratic National Committee, $2,300 each to the 2008 presidential campaigns of Barack Obama and Hilary Clinton, $2,000 to John Kerry’s 2004 presidential campaign, and $750 to the pro-choice Emily’s List. Walter is married to law school classmate Ronald Alan Stern, the chief anti-trust attorney for General Electric Co. They have two sons, Jonathan and Evan.

-Matt Bewig


Official Biography

An Ally of the Old Boss Also Goes Her Own Way (by Scott Patterson, Wall Street Journal)

Elisse Walter Steps Out of Schapiro Shadow Into SEC Chairmanship (by Robert Schmidt, Bloomberg)

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