People in the news Phillips Ready for Role At Federal Reserve Board

Susan M. Phillips made history in 1983 when she became the first woman to head a federal financial regulatory agency - the Commodity Futures Trading Commission.

Now she is waiting in the wings to move into what has apparently become the woman's seat on the Federal Reserve Board of Governors. President Bush is expected to nominate the 46-year-old financial economist to succeed Martha Seger, who left in March. Nancy Teeters preceded Ms. Seger in the post.

Ms. Phillips has been vice president and professor of finance at the University of Iowa since she left the commodity-trading regulatory agency in 1987.

Regulatory Expertise

Like most prospective nominees for federal office, she declines requests for interviews.

Fed watchers say they know little of her views on monetary policy or banking. But Ms. Phillips would bring significant regulatory and financial-markets expertise to the central bank.

"I suspect that the added value she brings to the board is a very deep knowledge of the futures markets, which should be important to the Fed in its margin-setting role," said Robert Dugger, chief economist for the American Bankers Association.

She would also add midwestern perspective, joining Governor Wayne Angell in that role. That could help dilute the Fed's reputed Ivy League flavor.

"About all you can say about Susan is she's not from Harvard," said Jerry L. Jordan, chief economist for First Interstate Bancorp, Los Angeles.

By law, each of the seven Fed governors must hail from a different Federal Reserve district to ensure geographic diversity. But to fill two prior vacancies, President Bush picked Harvard University professors David Mullins and Lawrence B. Lindsey. Some senators believe the Bush administration bent the rules too far by designating them as representatives of the St. Louis and Richmond districts, respectively.

The geographical issue is unlikely to arise this time. Ms. Phillips was born, reared, and educated in the South - she earned a B.A. degree in mathematics and chemistry from Agnes Scott College in Georgia and advanced finance degrees from Louisiana State University. As a faculty member and administrator at the University of Iowa on and off since 1974, she should be able to join the Fed as a Chicago district representative, in keeping with the administration's wishes.

Earlier Government Experience

Ms. Phillips interrupted her academic career twice for government service. From 1977 to 1978 she was an economic fellow at the Securities and Exchange Commission. And in 1981 she became a commissioner of the commodity futures group, rising to the chairmanship in 1983 and staying there four years.

While at the commodities commission, she served on the task group on regulation of financial services, headed by then Vice President George Bush. Under staff director Richard Breeden, now the chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission, the task group foreshadowed current efforts to overhaul and streamline regulation.

Ms. Phillips was also an economic policy fellow at the Brookings Institution in Washington from 1976 to 1977. She currently sits on the board of State Farm Insurance Co.

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