Director of U.S. data research agency abruptly resigns

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WASHINGTON — Richard Berner, who has served as the director of the Office of Financial Research since it was created by the Dodd-Frank Act, announced Monday that he will retire at yearend after six years at the agency.

“After six years of commuting between Washington, D.C., and my home in New York, I have decided that it is time for me to go home to my wife and enjoy time with our grandchildren who have graced our family since I came to D.C.,” Berner said in a press release. “It has been a great privilege to serve the American people and work alongside such dedicated civil servants at the OFR. I am proud of the work we accomplished together.”

Berner, who had worked as co-head of global economics at Morgan Stanley and also served on the management committee of Mellon Bank in his earlier career, joined the Treasury Department in 2011 to manage the establishment of the OFR. The newly formed agency was created as a quasi-independent arm of the Treasury Department tasked with researching and identifying areas of potential systemic risk.

The agency released dozens of reports and findings, including its systemic risk index, warning of various real and potential threats to the financial system. Berner most recently said that he thought asset size was not the most effective means of assessing systemic risk.

The surprise announcement leaves yet another vacancy for the administration to fill. In addition to three vacancies on the Federal Reserve Board of Governors, the administration has yet to nominate a new chairman of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. after Martin Gruenberg’s term expires next week, or a successor to Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Director Richard Cordray when his term expires in July 2018.

The administration may not nominate a successor at all. In the Treasury Department’s June road map for financial reform, the agency recommended eliminating OFR’s independent status, calling on Congress to make it “a functional part of Treasury, with its director appointed by the Secretary, without a fixed term and subject to removal at will.”

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