“I’ve been so amazed by how hard the men and women of the agency work each and every day and by the sacrifices they make to get the job done,” Mary Schapiro said in a statement.

“I’ve been so amazed by how hard the men and women of the agency work each and every day and by the sacrifices they make to get the job done,” Mary Schapiro said in a statement. Charles Dharapak/AP file photo

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Head of the SEC steps down

Mary Schapiro praises the ‘sacrifices’ and hard work of agency employees.

One of the longest-serving heads of the Securities and Exchange Commission announced Monday that she will step down in December.

In a statement on her departure, Chairwoman Mary Schapiro touted her record on enforcement and rulemaking. She also praised SEC’s employees.

“I’ve been so amazed by how hard the men and women of the agency work each and every day and by the sacrifices they make to get the job done,” she said. “So often they stay late or come in on weekends to polish a legal brief, review a corporate filing, write new rules, or reconstruct trading events. And despite the complexity and the intense scrutiny, they always excel at what they do.”

President Obama announced he would name SEC commissioner Elisse Walter to take over for Schapiro. Walter joined the commission in July 2008 as an appointee of President George W. Bush, and was acting chairwoman in January 2009 prior to Schapiro’s appointment. Walter came to the commission from the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, but her history with SEC dates back to 1977; she served on the staffs of the corporate finance division and the Office of the General Counsel.

Obama said Walter will inherit a stronger agency because of Schapiro’s work.

“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,” he said. “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.”

SEC had been under fire for its role in allowing the financial crisis and for failing to detect the Bernard Madoff ponzi scheme.