WASHINGTON -- The Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago has taken the unusual step of naming a president who is largely unknown in local banking and financial circles to replace Silas Keehn, who retires at the end of the month.
Michael Moskow, 56, whose appointment by the bank's board of directors was announced on Tuesday after approval by the Fed's board of governors, has wide experience in government, private business, and academia.
But Moskow's selection left some people in Chicago saying they did not know much about him, while others said they were surprised that Fed officials approved someone without experience in banking.
His views on monetary policy are also unknown, although some bankers familiar with him said they consider him a centrist who is likely to follow the mainstream views of the Federal Open Market Committee. As the head of the Chicago Fed, Moskow will have a seat on the FOMC.
"I have not heard from anybody who knows him. In fact, we were all calling around," said the chief economist at one Chicago trading firm who did not wish to be identified. "Basically the guy is not a financial person. It's sort of a disappointment."
Moskow is currently professor of strategy and international management at the J.L. Kellogg Graduate School of Management at Northwestern University. He is the author of six books and more than 20 articles and has done extensive research on labor relations and collective bargaining.
Moskow resumed teaching at Northwestern last year after serving as deputy U.S. trade representative for the Bush Administration, where he worked on the North American Free Trade Agreement and the Uruguay round of global trade talks.
Before then, he spent 14 years as a business executive for several large Chicago-area corporations that included Premark International, Dart and Kraft, Northwest Industries, and Esmark Inc.
From 1969 until 1977, Moskow held a variety of positions in the Nixon and Ford Administrations, including senior staff economist for the President's Council of Economic Advisers, assistant secretary for the Department of Housing and Urban Development, director of the Council on Wage and Price Stability, and undersecretary of the Labor Department.
William Hummer, president of Wayne Hummer Co., said Moskow "has a good reputation in corporate circles here in Chicago" and "will fit right in" at the Fed. Hummer said that he likes Moskow's corporate experience and knowledge of international trade, which is a source Of strength to Chicago's regional economy.
Robert Dederick, chief economist for Northern Trust Co., said Moskow has "a very impressive reputation" given his broad background. "My impression of him is that he comes across as a very shrewd individual. He is very personable, polished, and smooth," Dederick said.
James Annable, chief economist for First National Bank of Chicago, said that while Moskow is not widely known among bond dealers and elsewhere in financial circles, he is familiar to many in the business community. "I think that's good. Maybe he can bring his own interesting perspective to the job," Annable said.
Moskow's appointment ends a five-month search by the Chicago Fed's search committee to come up with a replacement for the 64-year-old Keehn, who served as president for 13 years. As a member of the FOMC, Moskow will participate in all policy meetings and will vote on an annual rotating basis beginning Jan. 1.
Keehn developed a reputation as a traditional, close-mouthed central bank official who rarely talks to reporters. While he was not trained as an economist -- a liability for FOMC policy discussions -- he came to the Chicago Fed after a long career with Mellon Bank in Pittsburgh.
While Moskow has not done work as a macroeconomist, he nonetheless has economic training that is likely to make him more confident as a Fed official and more willing to speak in public, Annable said.
Moskow did not return a telephone call requesting an interview.