WASHINGTON — The Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. is planning to name longtime Washington attorney Michael Bradfield as its general counsel, sources said.

Bradfield, now in his mid-70s, was the top lawyer at the Federal Reserve Board during the savings and loan crisis. He would succeed Sara Kelsey, who left the agency in October after less than two years in the job.

Now an attorney at Jones Day, Bradfield is to become the FDIC's chief counsel at a crucial time. As it handles a growing list of failed banks, the administration has also asked the FDIC to fill entirely new roles in the federal rescue, including running the toxic-loan liquidation plan and serving as the resolution agency for massive nonbanks. Moreover, the expanding workload comes amid questions about whether the agency's involvement with administration policy will harm its independence.

Bradfield worked at the Treasury Department from 1962 to 1975, at one point as the assistant general counsel for international affairs, according to the Jones Day Web site.

After a stint at the Cole Corette & Bradfield law firm, he was the Fed's general counsel from 1981 to 1989 where he earned a reputation as a relentless negotiator who wielded a lot of power inside the agency as then-Chairman Paul Volcker's right-hand man. Volcker is now chairman of President Obama's Economic Recovery Advisory Board.

"If you give Mike a goal, he will accomplish the goal," said Gil Schwartz, who worked with Bradfield at the Fed. "If it's up to Mike, in terms of a future presence in the supservisory system, the FDIC will have an important role."

It was unclear when the appointment would be announced. Bradfield and an FDIC spokesman declined to comment.

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