WASHINGTON – Dennis Lockhart, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta, announced he will resign on Feb. 28.

"It has been an enormous privilege to serve as president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta," Lockhart said in a statement on Tuesday. "The Atlanta Fed is an outstanding organization, and its employees are steadfastly dedicated to helping ensure the health and stability of our nation's economy and financial system. I am proud of the work we have accomplished together, and I believe the Bank is well positioned for the future."

Lockhart, who was appointed to head the Atlanta Fed in 2007, is required to resign under the rules of the Federal Reserve Act. The law stipulates that regional Fed bank presidents may not serve past age 65, unless they are elevated to the post after the age of 55. In that case, presidents may serve for either 10 years or until reaching the age of 75, whichever comes first. Lockhart, who is 69, will have served 10 years as of February 2017.

The Atlanta Fed will initiate a nationwide search committee to identify Lockhart's successor, led by nonbank members of the regional bank's board of directors with assistance from Spencer Stuart, an executive search firm, the bank said. Should a successor not be named before Lockhart's resignation becomes effective, Marie Gooding, first vice president and chief operating officer, will be interim president.

The Atlanta Fed manages the central bank's automated clearing house transaction network. Earlier this year the bank signed an eight-figure contract with IBM to modernize the system, which critics say is an antiquated legacy sorely in need of updating.

The search for Lockhart's successor is likely to also receive pressure from activists and politicians, who have called into question the process by which regional Fed bank presidents are identified and chosen. Lockhart is not a current voting member of the Federal Open Market Committee, but the Atlanta Fed is slated to take over a voting chair on the committee in 2017, heightening the importance of the search for his successor. 

Critics have already latched onto the nomination as a political flashpoint. The Fed Up campaign — a group of community organizations advocating for reform of the Fed System — said in a statement Tuesday that appointment processes to date have been characterized by a lack of transparency or public input and conflicts of interest. Shawn Sebastian, field director for the campaign, said that the Fed has virtually no representation from communities of color in 100 years and that several recent appointees have ties to investment bank Goldman Sachs. The search for Lockhart's successor is a "perfect place to start" the reversal of those trends, Sebastian said.

"The Fed Up Campaign has outlined simple demands around the Federal Reserve presidential appointment process, including basic disclosure about the timeline of the search, required qualifications, who the candidates under considerations are, and opportunities for the public to be engaged in choosing potential candidates and engaging with candidates in public forums," Sebastian said. "The Atlanta [Fed] needs to realize that there are people outside of Goldman Sachs who are qualified to make the most important decisions on the economy."

Lockhart has been known as a moderate on the FOMC and a strong supporter of Fed Chair Janet Yellen with an inclination toward accommodative monetary policy. Nonetheless, he said Monday that economic conditions warrant "serious discussion" of raising rates at next week's FOMC meeting.

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