James Lockhart's stock speech on why Congress should toughen supervision of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac usually doesn't spark much interest.But last week the director of the Office of Federal Housing Enterprise Oversight drew some pointed questions after remarks to the Exchequer Club, a group of policy wonks here in Washington.
Kenneth Guenther, the former head of the Independent Community Bankers of America, said "odds … favor no legislation" this year, and bluntly suggested Republicans who want a stricter bill simply want to put the government-sponsored enterprises out of business.
How much of this is "a philosophical difference, meaning" that "in your heart of hearts, you have no use for the housing GSEs," Mr. Guenther asked Mr. Lockhart.
After taking issue with Mr. Guenther's premise that Congress won't act this year, Mr. Lockhart assured the crowd that he was a believer.
"I wouldn't have taken this job if I thought the housing GSEs were not useful," he said.
The next zinger came from Joe Pigg, a lobbyist for the American Bankers Association. Since OFHEO has supported putting the federal home loan banks under the same new GSE regulator, Mr. Pigg asked whether Mr. Lockhart would also support adding the farm credit banks to the mix.
"That would be a big challenge. I think we'll take it one step at a time," Mr. Lockhart said. The Home Loan banks are "much more closely aligned with Fannie and Freddie than the Farmer Mac banks."
But Mr. Lockhart did not rule it out, noting such consolidation could result from Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson's recent efforts to streamline financial regulation. "It's my view that over time that might make sense."
FDIC Visits China
Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. Chairman Sheila Bair flew to China over the weekend with Vice Chairman Martin Gruenberg, chief of staff Jesse Villarreal, and Fred Carns, the agency's director of international affairs.The two-week trip is designed to "further the dialogue between our two countries about providing reliable deposit insurance, bank supervision, and crisis management," according to an FDIC spokesman.
The foursome will travel to Beijing, Shanghai, and the Hunan and Shaaxi provinces, and meetings will include discussions with officials from the People's Bank of China and the China Bank Regulatory Commission. This is the first trip to China by an FDIC chairman, though the agency has hosted delegations from the People's Bank of China.
This Is Not a Test
The steam-pipe explosion in Manhattan Wednesday forced the Federal Home Loan Bank of New York to implement its disaster plan — again."It was a bit of a shock," said the bank's president, Al DelliBovi, who was in his office at the time of the explosion.
The Home Loan bank's headquarters is two blocks from the explosion site near Grand Central Station, and a police blockade led the bank to send nearly 50 essential personnel to a backup office in Jersey City. Other employees worked from home.
The Home Loan bank has had to implement its contingency plan after the 9/11 attacks and the blackout of 2004.
"We've had to do this more than we would prefer," Mr. DelliBovi said.
Still, business at the Home Loan bank continued as normal last week, including the announcement of a 7.5% second-quarter dividend.
Mr. DelliBovi said he had not seen the Manhattan office since the explosion but hoped to move back in this week.
Calling It a Career
After more than 30 years as an FDIC lawyer, Douglas Jones retired at the end of June.The agency veteran was called on repeatedly to serve as acting general counsel whenever there was an extended vacancy in the job.
While a quintessential behind-the-scenes guy, Mr. Jones did take a visible role in shaping agency policy. In April 2006 he helped preside over the FDIC's public hearings on the industrial loan company application by Wal-Mart Stores Inc., and three months later delivered the agency's congressional testimony alongside Federal Reserve Board general counsel Scott Alvarez in a House hearing on ILCs.
Mr. Jones was acting general counsel from December 2005 to January 2007, when Sara Kelsey came on board. He also completed a yearlong stint as the agency's top lawyer in 1994, and held the job for a few months in 1990.
Mr. Jones started at the FDIC in 1974 on a two-year appointment to the division's Honors Program. But his ties to the FDIC precede even his legal training; his father, Adrian Jones, was an FDIC examiner from 1956 to 1978.
Atlanta Fed Hire
The Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta hired David Altig as director of research, advising president Dennis Lockhart on monetary policy.Mr. Altig spent the past decade as an associate director of research at the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland. He joined the Cleveland Fed in 1991 and was previously an assistant professor of business economics and public policy at Indiana University.
"David Altig is an experienced and well-respected macroeconomist," Mr. Lockhart said in a press release. "Through his work at the Cleveland Fed and in academia, he has earned a strong reputation in the areas of monetary policy, fiscal policy, and international economic research."
New Treasury Faces
The Treasury Department last week said it has hired four new deputy assistant secretaries: Chen Kim for legislative affairs; Christine McDaniel for policy coordination; Ted Gayer for microeconomic analysis; and Jeremy Rudd for macroeconomic analysis.
The American Bankers Association unveiled its next set of leaders, to be voted on at the group's annual convention in San Diego this October.Coming in as chairman is Bradley E. Rock, the chairman, president, and CEO of Bank of Smithtown in New York. Chairman-elect is Arthur R. Connelly, chairman and CEO of South Shore Bancorp., Weymouth, Mass.
Next in line, as vice chairman, is Arthur C. Johnson, chairman and CEO, United Bank of Michigan in Grand Rapids. Taking the treasurer's duties is Warren K.K. Luke, chairman, president and CEO, Hawaii National Bank, Honolulu.
Mr. Connelly was in line to lead America's Community Bankers, which last month announced plans to merge with the ABA.
New to the ABA's board will be Richard E. Anthony, chairman and CEO, Synovus Financial Corp., Columbus, Ga., and Kerry K. Killinger, chairman, president and CEO, Washington Mutual Inc., Seattle.