All President Bush's top cabinet choices have been confirmed, so the Washington gossip factory is shifting its production efforts to speculation on second-tier appointments.
Of particular interest to the financial services industry is who will be tapped as the Treasury Department's under secretary for domestic finance.
Among those reportedly being considered are Peter Fisher, executive vice president of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York; Frederick Khedouri, senior managing director at the investment firm of Bear, Stearns & Co.; Neil D. Levin, the superintendent of the New York State Insurance Department; Randal K. Quarles, co-head of the financial institutions group at the law firm of Davis Polk & Ward; and T. Timothy Ryan, a managing director at J.P Morgan Chase & Co. and a former director of the Office of Thrift Supervision.
Other names that have been mentioned include Joseph Seidel, director and senior legislative and regulatory affairs counsel at Credit Suisse First Boston's Washington office, and John Dugan, a partner at the law firm of Covington & Burling.
Some insiders are placing their bets on Mr. Fisher, who also serves as manager of the system open market account for the Federal Reserve Board. Some critics are alarmed that such an appointment would give the Fed undue influence at Treasury.
"This signals a Fed takeover of Treasury with [Treasury Secretary] Paul O'Neill being a close friend of [Fed Chairman] Alan Greenspan, and Mr. Greenspan now having succeeded in plugging in a key Fed official into the higher reaches of Treasury," a Washington consultant said.
Who can blame new House Financial Services Committee Chairman Michael G. Oxley, an avid golfer, for deciding to compete in the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am golf tournament this past weekend?After all, his alternative was two days of talking Republican policy and strategy at the caucus' annual retreat in historic Williamsburg, Va.
The tourney featured a full roster of golf greats, including Tiger Woods, David Duval, and Mark O'Meara, plus such celebrities as conservative talk show host Rush Limbaugh, ballet legend Mikhail Baryshnikov, easy-listening crooner Michael Bolton, and hard rocker Alice Cooper.
The GOP retreat offered only the likes of President Bush, House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert, and Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott.
Though a Washington Post article on Friday ribbed the Ohio Republican for taking a jaunt out West instead of attending the retreat to learn more about his new committee, the tournament did offer Rep. Oxley a chance to talk financial services policy. Other participants included former Wells Fargo & Co. chief executive officer Paul Hazen, former Treasury Secretary Nicholas Brady, former MasterCard CEO H. Eugene Lockhart, and investment guru Charles Schwab.
Alabama Republican Sen. Richard Shelby, a member of the Senate Banking Committee and co-chairman of the Congressional Privacy Caucus, has offered bankers some comforting words.The privacy hawk indicated at a news conference last week that he will not push hard for financial privacy legislation in the current session.
In other Congressional Privacy Caucus news, Connecticut Sen. Christopher Dodd, a senior Democratic member of Senate Banking, has replaced retired Sen. Richard Byran, D-Nev., as the group's Senate-side co-chairman. The co-chairmen from the House side remain Reps. Edward Markey, D-Mass., and Joe Barton, R-Tex.
Speaking of Senate Banking, the panel's Democrats have announced their subcommittee leaders.Sen. Dodd remains the ranking member on the securities panel. Sen. Jack Reed of Rhode Island moves from being the top Democrat on the economic policy subcommittee - which went to Sen. Charles Schumer of New York - to the top slot on housing and transportation. Sen. Tim Johnson of South Dakota surrendered his ranking post on the international trade panel to Sen. Evan Bayh of Indiana and moved into the top Democratic job on financial institutions.
The new House Financial Services Committee has not been quick to lay out its goals for this year, but observers should finally get a glimpse on Thursday, when Rep. Richard H. Baker - the chairman of the panel's subcommittee on capital markets, securities, insurance, and government-sponsored enterprises - holds a news conference to announce his agenda.Among other topics, the Louisiana Republican is expected to provide more details on his plans to tighten supervision of GSEs such as Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and to hold hearings on merchant banking issues.
With committee oversight plans due to House leadership by Feb. 15, the agenda of full committee Chairman Oxley should become clearer soon.
With Democrats out of the White House, former Comptroller of the Currency Eugene Ludwig seem to feel even freer to speak his mind.According to an article from Knight Ridder newspapers' London bureau, Mr. Ludwig has been meeting with United Kingdom regulators and warning of a possible future economic collapse.
"Unless we make serious progress towards updating, promulgating, and enforcing international standards for the global economy, I must predict another serious international financial services debacle within the next decade," Mr. Ludwig is quoted as saying.
The article claims that if Vice President Gore had won the fight for the presidency, Mr. Ludwig would have been nominated as Treasury Secretary. Perhaps that was an overstatement, as was the paper's description of Mr. Ludwig's former job as the "regulator of the banking and insurance industry."