At the Treasury Department's request, Jonathan Fiechter agreed Tuesday to stay on as acting director of the Office of Thrift Supervision until Oct. 7.
After three and a half years at the agency's helm, Mr. Fiechter announced in June that he would become director of the World Bank's financial sector development department on Sept. 4.
When he resigned, Mr. Fiechter recommended Treasury name his No. 2, John Downey, as acting director. But Treasury concluded it does not have the legal authority to name an acting director for the agency. Neither does Mr. Fiechter, government lawyers said. Only the agency director may name an acting director, and there is none.
Thus, Treasury intends to find someone who can become a permanent agency director. While Treasury could nominate someone and try to get that candidate confirmed by the Senate in the next month, the department also could shift someone who has already been confirmed for a separate government post.
Mr. Downey has agreed to take the job on an acting basis, but after 29 years as a government bureaucrat he does not want to be a political appointee, sources said.
Mr. Fiechter, Mr. Downey, and Treasury Under Secretary John D. Hawke Jr. all were careful not to elaborate in interviews Tuesday.
Finding someone willing to become the agency's director could be tough because its future is uncertain. If Congress ever acts on perennial legislation to consolidate the four banking and thrift agencies, the agency is likely to be merged out of existence.