SEC Commissioner Elisse Walter listens during a meeting at the Securities… (Alex Wong/Getty Images )
WASHINGTON -- President Obama on Monday designated Elisse Walter as chairwoman of the Securities and Exchange Commission, but it's unclear if the Democratic commissioner will be the permanent replacement for outgoing Mary Schapiro.
Walter, who has served on the SEC since July 2008, will take over the reins of the agency after Schapiro steps down on Dec. 14. Schapiro announced her resignation Monday.
Obama thanked Schapiro for her "steadfast leadership."
"When Mary agreed to serve nearly four years ago, she was fully aware of the difficulties facing the SEC and our economy as a whole," Obama said in a written statement.
"But she accepted the challenge, and today, the SEC is stronger and our financial system is safer and better able to serve the American people – thanks in large part to Mary's hard work," he said.
Obama can designate a current commissioner as chairman. But he must nominate a permanent replacement, who then has to be confirmed by the Senate.
After Schapiro departs next month, the SEC will have two Democrats and two Republicans, making it difficult to pass any controversial measures.
The White House did not indicate if Walter was among those being considered for the nomination.
Walter served as chairwoman for a short period in January 2009 after the departure of former Chairman Christopher Cox, before Schapiro was sworn in.
Walter, a former executive at the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority and the National Assn. of Securities Dealers, has been mentioned as a permanent replacement for Schapiro.
Obama said he was "confident that Elisse's years of experience will serve her well in her new position."
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