The New York Times
By: Binyamin Appelbaum
June 9, 2011
WASHINGTON -- The Obama administration, moving to fill vacancies at several financial regulatory agencies, is considering nominating Thomas J. Curry to head the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, which oversees most of the nation's large banks, according to several people with knowledge of the deliberations.
Mr. Curry, a lawyer who served as state banking commissioner in Massachusetts, now sits on the board of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation.
The White House would like to send Mr. Curry's name to the Senate at the same time that it moves on its widely reported plan to nominate Martin J. Gruenberg as the new chairman of the F.D.I.C., those people said. Mr. Gruenberg, a longtime Democratic Senate staff member, has served since 2005 as the vice chairman of the F.D.I.C.
Officials have not settled on a candidate to lead another regulator, the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, but they are focusing on Raj Date, a former banker who is helping to establish the bureau, those people said. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the selection process.
Even a single nomination would be the first time since last fall that the Obama administration has moved to reduce the growing number of vacancies at the top of the agencies charged with overhauling the nation's financial regulations. The White House has promised for several months to send names to Congress as soon as possible, and earlier this week a spokeswoman said action would come "in short order." The spokeswoman, Amy Brundage, declined to comment Thursday, citing a policy of not commenting on personnel decisions before they are announced by the president.
Mr. Curry and Mr. Gruenberg declined to comment. Mr. Date could not be reached.
The comptroller's office has lacked permanent leadership since John C. Dugan completed a five-year term in August. John Walsh, one of Mr. Dugan's deputies, has served as acting comptroller in his stead.
At a celebration for Mr. Dugan shortly before his departure, Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner told staff members that it could take time to find a suitable successor. It was taken as praise but came to seem like prophecy as the administration was turned down by some candidates, and set aside others.
Mr. Curry served as commissioner of banks in Massachusetts from 1995 until 2003, when he was nominated to the F.D.I.C. board by President George W. Bush. His term on the board expired last year, but he has remained in the absence of a replacement. The comptroller holds a permanent seat on the five-member F.D.I.C. board, so Mr. Curry could remain on the board even longer if confirmed as comptroller.
That would be politically expedient for the Obama administration. Mr. Curry is a registered independent and federal law stipulates that no more than three members of the board may belong to the same party.
Mr. Gruenberg, a Democrat, would replace Sheila C. Bair, who plans to step down as chairwoman when her term ends in July. The F.D.I.C. under Ms. Bair's leadership has gained prominence and power, advocating for the interests of consumers and community banks and, at times, infuriating administration officials and other regulators.
Mr. Gruenberg, who has provided reliable support for Ms. Bair, is seen as likely to advocate the same priorities in a more conciliatory style. He was a longtime aide to former Senator Paul S. Sarbanes of Maryland and retains relationships on Capitol Hill with members of both parties, which could ease his path to confirmation.
If both men are confirmed, the administration would need to fill two new vacancies on the F.D.I.C. board. There are also two vacancies on the Federal Reserve's Board of Governors, and a vacancy atop the Federal Housing Finance Agency, which regulates Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Several positions created by the Dodd-Frank Act also remain to be filled, including a Fed vice chairman for supervision, a head for the new Office of Financial Research and an insurance oversight position.
The most significant vacancy, however, is at the consumer protection bureau, which opens in July but does not gain full powers until it has a permanent head.
The president last year appointed Elizabeth Warren, a Harvard Law professor who was the most forceful advocate for the agency's creation, to bring it to life. Ms. Warren's many supporters believe she should be nominated to lead the agency, but her unsparing criticism of financial abuses has made her a polarizing figure.
Mr. Date is seen as a compromise candidate. He worked in the financial industry as an executive at Capital One and Deutsche Bank, then headed a research group that advocated for regulatory reforms before coming to work for Ms. Warren.
Senate Republicans have said that they will not allow a vote on any nominee to lead the new agency until Democrats agree to rewrite the law to reduce its powers. That could force the White House to make an appointment this summer while the Senate is away.