WASHINGTON -- Attorney Ricki Rhodarmer Tigert, whose long-awaited nomination to head the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. was made official this week, still faces a three-month wait before a confirmation vote.
With the Senate set to adjourn in the next few days and not reconvene until late January, the confirmation process could drag on into March, congressional and industry sources said.
Ms. Tigert, 48, said Thursday that she will not receive a so-called recess appointment, which would allow her to run the agency on an interim basis until confirmed.
In naming Ms. Tigert, President Clinton put an end to nine months of jockeying for the job by a dozen candidates. However, his intention to appoint her had been known for about a month.
Ms. Tigert, who has a law degree from the University of Chicago and a master's degree in political science from the University of North Carolina, has nine years of experience as a federal regulator.
"It is a great honor to be asked to serve in the Clinton administration," she said Thursday. "I deeply admire the President and Mrs. Clinton and their willingness to take on the most difficult challenges facing this country."
"I am particularly fortunate to be asked to serve as the head of an agency at the heart of the significant issues facing our financial system today."
Whenever the vote finally occurs, Ms. Tigert is expected to win the Senate's approval.
The main concern uncovered so far is that she was the Federal Reserve Board's top international lawyer when the Bank of Credit and Commerce International was running afoul of banking laws all over the world. Congressional staffers are asking what she knew about BCCI.
There are critics who claim that she does not have the right experience to lead the FDIC because most of her career has focused on international, rather than domestic, banking issues.
Before she was the Fed's associate general counsel for international banking, Ms. Tigert was the Treasury Department's senior counsel for international finance. Since October 1992, she has been a partner with the Washington law firm of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher.
Critics also warn that Ms. Tigert does not have any experience managing a large organization. The FDIC employs 15,570 people in dozens of offices around the country.
But these objections are not likely to derail her nomination. Most everyone interviewed said Ms. Tigert is bright, hardworking, and a quick learner.
"I hate to use a trite phrase, but I really think she'll hit the ground running," said Gil Schwartz, a former Fed lawyer who is a partner with Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom here. "She's smart. She understands banking and she knows Washington."
Ms. Tigert has even managed to win over Kenneth A. Guenther, executive vice president of the Independent Bankers Association of America.
|Has an Intuitive Feel'
"She's a charming, engaging, and intelligent woman," said Mr. Guenther, who had backed Arkansas banker William Bowen for the post. "She has an intuitive feel for mainstream America."
Edwin M. Truman, staff director of the Fed's international finance division, thinks the President made a great choice.
"She's interested in a nice combination of the big picture and the necessary details," said Mr. Truman, who worked with Ms. Tigert first at Treasury and then at the Fed. "That makes for efficient as well as farsighted public policy."
Chuck Muckenfuss, one of Ms. Tigert's partners, noted that she brings an interesting mix of experience to the job. In addition to her work at the Fed and the executive branch, Ms. Tigert has worked on Capitol Hill and in the private sector.
First Woman to Head FDIC
Ms. Tigert would be the first woman to head the FDIC in its 60-year history.
Former FDIC chairman L. William Seidman predicted the staff "will receive her like all other previous chairmen: with skepticism but with a chance to change that with the way they behave."
His advice to Ms. Tigert is to protect the agency's independence and make the FDIC "a player again in the regulatory world."
The FDIC has been without a chairman since August 1992, when William Taylor died. Andrew C. "Skip" Hove Jr. has been acting chairman. He expects to be renominated as vice chairman, but President Clinton did not make any other nominations to the board when he tapped Ms. Tigert.
The Ludwig Issue
While Mr. Hove is widely liked, he has taken a back seat to Comptroller of the Currency Eugene A. Ludwig, who holds a seat on the FDIC board. The FDIC has lost power over the nine months that Mr. Ludwig has been at the Comptroller's office.
This shift has undermined morale at the FDIC -- one of the first problems Ms. Tigert will need to fix. Several sources have suggested that she could demonstrate her faith in the staff by appointing career FDIC lawyer Douglas H. Jones as general counsel. Mr. Jones was named to the job on an acting basis earlier this month when Alfred J.T. Byrne resigned.
Whether Ms. Tigert will stand up to Mr. Ludwig is another question. Her friends have no doubt she will be her own woman
"I can't imagine anyone who knows Ricki thinking she'd have a problem in that regard [independence]," said Rodgin Cohen, a partner with Sullivan & Cromwell in New York. "I've never seen her have trouble taking a position that's contrary to others."
"She has her own mind and she holds her counsel until she's heard all the options that are available," said Barbara Timmer, assistant general counsel and director of government affairs at ITT Corp. here.
But people who have worked with her in the past, most of whom would not speak on the record, said Ms. Tigert is not likely to openly oppose positions taken by Mr. Ludwig or other Treasury officials.
One source put it simply: "She's no Seidman."
Mr. Seidman, chairman of the FDIC from from 1985 to 1991, strayed often from the official administration line.
Ties to White House
Ms. Tigert is close to top people inside the administration, including President Clinton.
She attends the annual Renaissance weekend, a public policy confab on Hilton Head Island where the Clintons have long rung in the New Year.
In addition, Ms. Tigert and White House deputy chief of staff Roy M. Neel were high school and college classmates in Tennessee.
October 1992-present: Partner with Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher 1985-1992: Associate general counsel, international banking, Federal Reserve. 1983-1985: Senior counsel, international finance, Treasury Department. 1979-1983 Practiced law with Leva, Hawes, Symington, Martin & Oppenheimer 1977-1978: Counsel to Senate Judiciary citizens' and shareholders' rights subcommittee 1976-1977: Law clerk, Judge John Minor Wisdom, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit
1976: Graduated cum laude from the University of Chicago law school. 1972: Earned a master's degree in political science from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. 1967: Graduated magna cum laude from Vanderbilt University, Nashville. Personal: Born Feb. 4, 1945, in Waynesville, N.C., but grew up in Smyrna, Tenn.