President Obama’s pick of Mary Jo White to head the Securities and Exchange Commission is being seen as a warning shot to bad actors on Wall Street.

White, who will be officially nominated by the president later Thursday, would come to the agency after establishing a reputation as a hard-nosed prosecutor.

Currently a high-profile white-collar defense attorney, White was no stranger to tough cases as a New York prosecutor, setting her sights on mafia bosses and terrorists.

Liberals long frustrated with the administration’s apparent inability or unwillingness to pursue criminal charges over the financial crisis are hoping White’s selection signals a get-tough approach.

“She knew who the bad guys were, went after them and put them in prison when they broke the law. That’s what must happen if integrity and investor confidence is to be restored in our securities markets,” said Dennis Keller, president of the financial reform group Better Markets. “Wall Street is a high crime area and Mary Jo White brings the right skill set to restore the rule of law on Wall Street.”

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