Jonathan Weil, Bloomberg

Here’s the big question for Mary Jo White: If she becomes chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission, where will her interests lie? With the public that pays her salary? Or with the people handing her the big bucks?

White is the white-collar defense lawyer and former U.S. attorney nominated by President Barack Obama to lead the SEC. Her financial disclosures say that upon leaving New York-based Debevoise & Plimpton LLP, the law firm will give her $42,500 a month in retirement pay for life, or more than $500,000 a year.

This means she has a direct interest in Debevoise’s future profits, and therefore an incentive to help make sure only good things come the firm’s way. Debevoise’s partner-retirement plan is unfunded, meaning the firm pays benefits from its continuing business operations.

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