President-elect Barack Obama probably hasn´t given it much thought but BankThink can't help but wonder which regulators will still be making financial services policy next year.
First, the easy ones: Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke will at least serve out his term, which expires Feb. 1, 2010. Though he lacks the cult following former Chairman Alan Greenspan had during his heyday, Mr. Bernanke is holding on to the general approval of...well...everyone who approved of him in the first place.
Another easy answer: Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson is out. Will he return to Goldman Sachs, especially now that it´s a bank holding company? Maybe he´ll follow predecessor John Snow´s lead and join a private equity firm?
Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. Chairman Sheila Bair's fate also seems surefooted-and more interesting. She´ll likely stay on, as one of the two required Republicans on the five-member FDIC board. She has cultivated popularity and an aura of independence with her push to modify more home loans, thus distancing herself from the outgoing administration and, more generally, from the Republican ideals President-elect Obama deemed stale.
The other Republican who could remain is Comptroller of the Currency John Dugan. Regulatory restructuring plans have made the future of his agency a little hazy, but Mr. Dugan is on better ground than Office of Thrift Supervision Director John Reich. Mr. Reich, it is rumored, could retire by yearend, leaving his deputy, Scott Polakoff, to run the agency until its probable sublimation into the OCC. (For a sample of American Banker's coverage of OTS´s road to extinction, see this article).
Whatever the shakeout, it won´t happen under the radar. V. Gerard Comizio, a partner at Paul, Hastings, Janofsky & Walker LLP, summed it up: "Appointees in financial services agencies are going to be higher priority than at any other time in recent memory because of the current financial crisis."