Scott Alvarez, the Federal Reserve's longtime general counsel, will retire later this year after nearly three dozen years at the central bank, the agency announced Wednesday.

Alvarez headed the Fed's legal division for more than 12 years and has had his imprint on every major guidance and rulemaking at the Fed over the past decade. The Fed said it will begin a search for his successor immediately.

"Scott advised successive Chairs, including myself, with deep expertise and utmost integrity," Fed Chair Janet Yellen said in a press release. "I am enormously grateful for his wise counsel, calmness and good humor during times of stress, and, above all, his intense dedication to the public interest served by the Federal Reserve."

Alvarez has been at the center of controversy. Critics including Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., suggested he was the reason the Fed dragged its heels on certain provisions of the Dodd-Frank Act.

"The Fed is our first line of defense against another financial crisis, and the Fed's general counsel, or anyone at the Fed staff, should not be picking and choosing which rules to enforce based on their personal views," Warren said during a Senate Banking Committee hearing two years ago.

Alvarez also served as general counsel of the Federal Open Market Committee and was central to the Fed's implementation of Dodd-Frank. He began his work with the central bank in 1981 as a staff attorney before becoming assistant general counsel in 1989. He was named general counsel in July 2004.

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