WASHINGTON President Obama announced three nominations to the Federal Reserve Board on Friday, but left a critical spot unfilled: a second vice chair in charge of bank supervision.
The nominations of Stanley Fischer, former governor of the Bank of Israel, Lael Brainard, the U.S. Treasury Department's past undersecretary for international affairs, and current Fed Gov. Jerome Powell are set to keep the board at seven members if they are quickly confirmed by the Senate.
But none of the three nominees were named to the role of vice chair of supervision, a new position created under the Dodd-Frank Act.
Since the passage of the regulatory reform law in 2010, the position has remained vacant, with Fed Gov. Daniel Tarullo acting unofficially in the role.
"With Yellen and Fischer, President Obama has assembled an excellent team to determine how we transition from our current malaise to full employment," said Mike Konczal, a fellow at the Roosevelt Institute, who works on financial reform issues. "Now he needs to officially appoint someone equally talented and aggressive in transitioning from rule-writing to actually enforcing and completing Dodd-Frank."
Observers who have watched the process say the Obama administration has purposefully avoided making a decision on the appointment because Tarullo is already effectively serving in that capacity. White House spokeswoman Amy Brundage did not respond to a request for comment.
Hampering the issue is the fact that this White House has been so critical of the private sector it has limited the potential nominees it can select to either individuals in academia or from existing government positions. That ultimately has created a game of musical chairs for these positions, observers said.
"Federal positions in the financial space have become really difficult right now to fill and have been in the last few years," said Tony Fratto, a partner at Hamilton Place Strategies and a former top White House and Treasury official in the Bush administration. "It's really difficult to put into place anybody with private sector experience. The criticism of anyone that has had private sector experience has been immediate."
The White House could wait until Tarullo decides to leave his term to appoint someone else as a second vice chair. But his term does not expire until 2022.
Alternatively, Janet Yellen could also use her prerogative as the new Fed chair to reorganize governors into different positions on what issues they supervise across the Fed system, including bank regulation.
The White House announcement comes just days after Yellen was confirmed by the Senate to serve as the next Fed chair starting on Feb. 1. She will succeed outgoing Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke, whose second four-year term expires at the end of this month.
"These three distinguished individuals have the proven experience, judgment and deep knowledge of the financial system to serve at the Federal Reserve during this important time for our economy," said Obama in a statement, announcing his plans.
Fischer, a world-renowned economist who previously served as the first deputy managing director of the International Monetary Fund, was nominated to serve a six-year term as vice chair. He will succeed Yellen, who has held that seat since October 2010.
The president expressed his confidence that Fischer and Yellen would "make a great team."
Fischer has been credited with navigating Israel's economy through the global financial crisis as governor and for helping to address the Asian, Russian, and Brazilian crises in the late 1990s during his tenure at the IMF.
"I am grateful he has agreed to take on this new role," said Obama of Fischer, who also was vice chairman of Citigroup from 2002 through 2005.
Douglas Elliott, a fellow at the Brookings Institution and a former investment banker at JPMorgan Chase, hailed Fischer and Brainard's appointments as "great choices" by the president.
Other observers agreed.
"I think if they can get confirmed relatively quickly it will be a fairly strong board," said Fratto, especially given the breadth of experience Fischer would bring to the board would be "incredibly valuable."
Karen Shaw Petrou, a managing partner at Federal Financial Analytics Inc., said Fischer and Brainard would bring a critical perspective, while making it a more internationally-focused Fed board.
In the coming year, U.S. regulators will have to work with foreign finance ministers and central bankers to iron out rules tied to global resolution, leverage and laws that will apply to foreign banks operating in the U.S., among others.
"That's been missing partly because of the crisis just forced a lot of focus on U.S. rules and then Dodd-Frank obviously is U.S. specific," said Petrou. "The more we build out the U.S. framework, the more at odds it is with the global one in key markets like the European Union, and I think this is a critical piece of new business the Fed has to address, which is how international finance is going to be going forward."
Powell, a Republican, has been a member of the Fed board since May 2012, but his term will expire this month. Under his second nomination, his new term would end in 2028.
Brainard, who had been in charge of currency policy and working with G20 central banks and finance ministers on the European financial crisis and regulatory reform efforts, has been nominated for a 12-year term.
Those nominees, if confirmed, would fill seats left by former Fed Gov. Elizabeth Duke and Bernanke, who will depart the Fed later this month.
Sarah Bloom Raskin, who has also been nominated by Obama to be deputy Treasury secretary, has yet to be confirmed by the Senate and still remains as a governor at the Fed.