WASHINGTON - The Federal Reserve Board named Barbara Lowrey its ombudsman this week, becoming the third of four banking agencies to comply with a year-old law forcing them to establish the position.
Ms. Lowrey said her primary job will be to mediate between examiners and bankers who feel they are not getting a fair shake. She will report directly to the Federal Reserve Board.
It is the responsibility of the ombudsman, according to the Fed's policy statement, to make sure any compliance appeals are processed quickly. Ms. Lowrey, however, will not have the power to overturn examiner decisions on her own.
"The system's been working well," she said. "My job is mainly to direct people. If we begin to discover problems, the job can evolve that way, but now I am predominantly a facilitator."
Ms. Lowrey will be adding the ombudsman responsibilities to her previous position as the Fed's associate secretary.
The Office of Thrift Supervision is now the only agency without an ombudsman, but a spokesman there said a candidate has been selected and will be named within two weeks.
Section 309 of the Riegle Community Development and Regulatory Improvement Act, passed in September 1994, required the regulatory agencies to appoint ombudsmen within six months but did not specify a penalty for late compliance.
The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation named Carmen Sullivan as its ombudsman in June.
But it was the Comptroller of the Currency's Office that took the lead by appointing Sam Golden its ombudsman in September 1993. Mr. Golden has pleaded with bankers to take advantage of the advocates, but many in the industry fear complaining will result in retribution from their examiners.
During Mr. Golden's tenure, his office has handled just 48 appeals, of which bankers have won 64%.