Sheila, Oprah

Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. Chairman Sheila Bair, named by Forbes as the most powerful woman in the country, now has gotten a nod from none other than Oprah Winfrey.

Bair was one of 20 women on the "First-Ever Power List," published last week by O, the Oprah Magazine.

Bair predicted that the "mania for subprime loans would result in financial upheaval," O said. "A year later, she warned (again accurately) that bailing out financial institutions would do little for struggling homeowners."

The FDIC chief told O that the "crisis really highlighted how important confidence is to our financial system."

"But confidence is also essential when it comes to speaking up about what you believe in," she said.

"You can't let yourself be limited. You have to hold your own ground."

Bair joins an eclectic group on the list, including the comedian Sarah Silverman, the actress Lauren Ambrose, the political analyst Donna Brazile, Venus Williams of tennis fame and Cleopatra.

Forbes said Thursday that Bair retained her ranking as the second-most-powerful woman in the world, runner-up for the second consecutive year to German Chancellor Angela Merkel

Alien to Frank

Though lawmakers said they would use the August recess to focus on regulatory restructuring, many are instead spending much of their time with an arguably more important issue: health-care reform. Consumer advocates and banking lobbyists alike say it is hard to get members to pay attention to any other topic these days.

House Financial Services Committee Chairman Barney Frank made headlines as he lived up to his reputation for not suffering fools lightly.

When a woman holding a poster of President Obama with a Hitler mustache asked the Massachusetts Democrat why he was backing a "Nazi" plan, Frank lost his patience.

"On which planet do you spend most of your time?" he said.

A clip of the event was widely circulated on the Internet and got picked up by several news networks. The clip ended with the woman continuing to speak before Frank cut her off.

"Ma'am, trying to have a conversation with you would be like trying to argue with a dining-room table," he said. "I have no interest in doing it." 

Lockhart on PE Role

For James Lockhart, getting away from Washington may be easier than getting away from the wreckage of the financial crisis.

Lockhart left the Federal Housing Finance Agency last week and is starting his new job, as the vice chairman of WL Ross & Co. LLC, in September. In an interview before he left the FHFA, Lockhart said there are still plenty of opportunities for private equity to support the financial sector.

"It's been very important to raise capital, especially for smaller institutions so they can make loans or provide insurance," he said. "Private equity has a big role."

He said limits on private-equity involvement in depository institutions should be eased.

"Hopefully some of those roadblocks would be slowly removed," he said.

One of regulators' chief concerns is whether private-equity firms — always seeking return on their investments — are sufficiently patient and well versed in the business of banking. Lockhart said private-equity is well informed on the financial industry.

"Oftentimes I think they can be very helpful as not only investors, but strategic advisers," he said.

Lockhart's three years supervising Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were particularly dramatic, including the housing legislation in 2008 that created the Finance Agency and the decision months later to seize the government-sponsored enterprises.

Early in his tenure, Lockhart raised eyebrows with his aggressive stance against Fannie and Freddie. Now he suggests that he could have been tougher still.

"We all wish we had known how bad things were going to get," he said. "Our crystal balls were all a little foggy, I'm afraid. We used a lot of our powers and used some powers we didn't have. But in retrospect, maybe I should have used even more powers that we didn't have." 

New to Dodd Team

Mortgage Bankers Association lobbyist Catherine Galicia has joined the Democratic staff of the Senate Banking Committee.

Before joining the MBA, Galicia lobbied for Popular Inc. Previously she was the banking counsel for Sen. Evan Bayh, D-Ind.

Subscribe Now

Access to authoritative analysis and perspective and our data-driven report series.

14-Day Free Trial

No credit card required. Complete access to articles, breaking news and industry data.