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Watchdog of Wall Street, SEC's Mary Schapiro, looks back

Mary Schapiro testifies before the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee about derivatives reform in the Dirksen Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill May 22, 2012 in Washington, D.C.

Leading a regulatory agency means you are no friend to most of the people you deal with on a day-to-day basis. Leading a regulatory agency such as the Securities and Exchange Commission during a financial crisis -- that's another thing entirely.

The current chairman of the SEC, Mary Schapiro, announced last month she would step down effective Dec, 14th. It's her last Monday in office, and she agreed to talk to us about what the last four years have been like.

On why she agreed to take the job in January of 2009 amidst a financial crisis and plummeting markets:

"I agreed to take the job because I...believe deeply in the mission of the agency. We cannot have a robust financial system and a successful economy if the markets don't work well."

On financial reform, and criticism that the agency hasn't enacted the Dodd-Frank Wall Street reform law fast enough:

"Under the Dodd-Frank law, the SEC got the lion's share of the rules to write, more than 100 rules and we have done an extraordinary amount of that. Eighty percent have been either proposed or adopted. So, a lot a lot accomplished but of course more to do. "

On convincing the American people to trust the agency after financial disasters:

"There are no absolutes in this world and there will always be mistakes that are made within brokerage firms, there will always be people who set out to deceive the regulators and even deceive their own senior management. What regulators need to do is make sure that we're on top of those situations and make sure that our sanctions have a deterrent effect so that perhaps the next person that seeks to misbehave will think twice about it. "

Chairman Schapiro declined to respond specifically to the recent SEC action against Netflix CEO Reed Hastings after he posted company information to his personal Facebook account. But she did talk about the agency's attempts to regulate in a digital world:

"The SEC has actually progressively loosened up the rules and recognized the value of social media but the goal is always going to be to get information out as broadly as possible as quickly as possible."

On her next move:

"I have had no time to think about it and I'm going to take a little time off, try to spend some time with my family and then think about what I want to do next."

About the author

Kai Ryssdal is the host and senior editor of Marketplace, public radio’s program on business and the economy.

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