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Biden to nominate former Treasury official as top Fed bank regulator

Michael Barr would be vice chair for supervision

A view of the Marriner S. Eccles Federal Reserve building on Jan. 26, 2022 in Washington.
A view of the Marriner S. Eccles Federal Reserve building on Jan. 26, 2022 in Washington. (Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)

President Joe Biden said Friday he will nominate former Treasury Department official Michael Barr to lead the Federal Reserve’s regulation of the banking system as the central bank’s vice chair for supervision.

Barr, an assistant Treasury secretary for financial institutions during the Obama administration, has experience as a banking regulator, including shaping and implementing the legal and regulatory overhaul of the financial sector following the 2008 financial crisis. If confirmed along with Biden’s other two Fed nominees, Lisa Cook and Philip Jefferson, Barr would return the seven-seat board to full membership.

“Barr has spent his career protecting consumers, and during his time at Treasury, played a critical role in creating both the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and the position for which I am nominating him,” Biden said in a statement. “Michael brings the expertise and experience necessary for this important position at a critical time for our economy and families across the country.”

The nomination comes weeks after Sarah Bloom Raskin withdrew from consideration for the position. She first faced a boycott by Senate Banking Committee Republicans. Then Sen. Joe Manchin III, D-W.Va., a key Democratic vote in the evenly split Senate, opposed Raskin’s nomination because of her views on climate change and financial regulation. 

Cook and Jefferson still await confirmation votes in the Senate, as do Fed Governor Lael Brainard to be vice chair and acting Chairman Jerome Powell for a second term as chair. 

While at Treasury from 2009 to 2011, Barr led the policy team in charge of drafting text and working with Congress on the 2010 Dodd-Frank law, which overhauled oversight of the financial system. Barr was also responsible for policies affecting banks, credit unions, insurance, securities and mutual funds. 

He received the Alexander Hamilton Award for distinguished leadership, the department’s highest honor, in 2010, according to his CV.

He has since been the dean of public policy at the University of Michigan’s Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy. He has taught courses on financial regulation, and his research has focused on both regulation and financial inclusion. 

He joined the university after working at the Treasury in the Clinton administration from 1995 to 2001 as deputy assistant secretary overseeing community development policy and special assistant to Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin. During that time, he helped build the department’s Community Development Financial Institution Fund. 

Aaron Cutler, head of government relations at the law firm Hogan Lovells and a former student of Barr’s, said he often collaborated with Barr as a financial services policy adviser to former Republican House Majority Leader Eric Cantor of Virginia. 

“If you’re going to be on the other side of him on a particular issue, you’d better come with really strong policy arguments because as you can see from his credentials, he’s brilliant,” Cutler said in an interview. “You just better be ready for that, but he’ll give you a fair shake.”

Senate Republicans ought to be open to Barr’s nomination, Cutler said. 

“I’m a Republican. If I were talking to a U.S. senator, I would encourage them, him or her, to give professor Barr a fair shake,” he said. “Obviously, he has the qualifications, he’s collegial and he listens to both sides.”  

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