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Nomination in for new FDIC head

By Claes Bell, CFA · Bankrate.com
Tuesday, June 14, 2011
Posted: 12 pm ET

Looks like America's banking system will soon have a new watchdog to replace departing FDIC chairman Sheila Bair. From Rob Blackwell at American Banker:

After months of waiting, President Obama confirmed the worst-kept secret in D.C.: he would nominate Marty Gruenberg as the chairman of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.

Gruenberg has been the obvious successor to outgoing FDIC Chairman Sheila Bair since she announced last year she would not seek renomination after her term expires this month. He has served as the vice chairman of the agency since August of 2005, and previously worked on key financial services issues as a senior counsel to former Sen. Paul Sarbanes (D-Md.) on the Senate Banking Committee.

Gruenberg appears to be an experienced hand when it comes to the FDIC and financial regulation more generally. He started at the agency in 2005 and served as the acting chairman of the agency for about six months following the resignation of Bush appointee Donald Powell. After that, he served as vice chairman of the FDIC during Bair's tenure. Prior to that, he was senior counsel to Sen. Paul Sarbanes, who you'll remember as a sponsor of the sweeping overhaul of corporate financial disclosure and accounting laws, known as Sarbanes-Oxley, that came in the wake of the Enron accounting scandal.

As I've previously said on this blog, Bair's tenure at the FDIC is going to be a tough act to follow. Gruenberg seems to share Bair's focus on consumer protection and the need for strong oversight of banks. Here's an excerpt from his testimony before Congress in 2009:

Earlier this month, in a speech before the National Association of Attorneys General, FDIC Chairman Bair stated that many of the current problems in the economy were caused by a widespread failure to protect consumers.  It is essential that those whose actions contributed to the current crisis and who are engaging in practices harmful to consumers be held accountable.  In addition, it is important to take steps to prohibit these practices from reoccurring in the future.

Rep. Barney Frank, ranking Democrat on the House Financial Services Committee, had some nice things to say to Reuters' Dave Clark about Gruenberg's potential nomination in April:

"I think it's likely to be Marty Gruenberg, and that will be good," Frank said in an interview on Thursday. "It's just the logical thing to do. He's got a lot of experience, it would be great continuity. And from the standpoint of confirmation, he was on the committee and I think he would have the best shot at it."

What do you think? Is Gruenberg a good fit? What issues would you like to see Gruenberg tackle if he is confirmed?

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