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Tangle of Ties Binds SEC's Top Ranks

"Enforcement cases at the Securities and Exchange Commission go nowhere unless approved by a majority of the agency's commissioners. But conflicts for the possible new chairman and other top officials could make it harder to get to "yes."

"For example, SEC investigators are looking into the "London whale" trading mess at J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. and have yet to decide whether to recommend any action in the matter. Mary Jo White, nominated last month by President Barack Obama to lead the agency, wouldn't be able to vote on any case involving the New York bank for two years after taking the job. That is because J.P. Morgan recently was her client at law firm Debevoise & Plimpton LLP.

"Daniel Gallagher, an SEC commissioner since 2011, also would have a conflict of interest. He came to the SEC from Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr LLP, a law firm helping J.P. Morgan investigate the London whale and respond to government inquiries."

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