The Clinton administration appears ready to nominate Washington lawyer Brooksley Born to be chairman of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, industry sources say.
To smooth the way for Ms. Born, whose friendship with Hillary Rodham Clinton, the First Lady, could create political controversy, the administration has named David Spears, an aide to Senate Majority Leader Robert Dole, to the commission's other vacancy.
The five-member board regulates the futures exchanges in New York and Chicago, where a growing number of banks operate futures commission merchants. The nominations are subject to approval by the Senate Agriculture Committee.
Sen. Lauch Faircloth, R-N.C., who is not a member of the agriculture committee but could influence it, expressed reservations about Ms. Born at a Senate Banking Committee hearing on the Whitewater affair. He said that as chairwoman Ms. Born might have to oversee investigations of the First Lady's decade-old commodity trading activities.
"He said her nomination would be a replay of the Ricki Helfer nomination" for chairman of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., an aide to Sen. Faircloth said. "At this point, he would be opposed to her being nominated."
Ms. Born, who heads the futures practice at the Washington law firm of Arnold & Porter, declined to comment.
The appointment would end the uncertainty that followed the departure of Mary Schapiro as chairman in late January. John Tull has been acting chairman since Ms. Schapiro left to head the National Association of Securities Dealers' new regulatory arm.
Among the nominees reportedly considered by the administration were Douglas E. Harris, senior deputy Comptroller of the Currency for capital markets; Securities and Exchange Commissioner Steve Wallman; and Department of Agriculture general counsel Jim Gililand. Each reportedly visited the Chicago futures exchanges in December after Ms. Schapiro's resignation had been announced.
Ms. Born's name rose to the top of the list only recently. She was in Chicago Tuesday to meet with exchange officials and the industry's self- regulatory arm, the National Futures Association.
John Damgard, the association's president, said Ms. Born's background would pacify concerns of some futures industry observers.
"There is some concern that the agency needs to have someone with financial and international expertise to carry out its mission," he said.
To help win Republican support for Ms. Born, the administration has nominated Mr. Spears to the other opening on the commission's board. He is director of Sen. Dole's staff in Kansas.
Mr. Damgard said Ms. Born is "eminently qualified" for the post and politics should not enter into the decision.