After months of waiting, President Obama confirmed the worst kept secret in D.C: he would nominate Marty Gruenberg as the chairman of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.
Gruenberg has been the obvious successor to outgoing FDIC Chairman Sheila Bair since she announced last year she would not seek renomination after her term expires this month. He has served as the vice chairman of the agency since August of 2005, and previously worked on key financial services issues as a senior counsel to former Sen. Paul Sarbanes, D-Maryland, on the Senate Banking Committee.
It became clear earlier this year that Gruenberg would get the FDIC nod, but Washington insiders were stumped when Obama did not name him. At some point, Gruenberg was meant to be part of a package of at least nine financial services nominations, including a new Comptroller of the Currency and the head of the new Office of Financial Research. But in the past few weeks, it had become clear such a package was not in the offing as the administration began to announce nominations for less important roles related to financial regulation.
It remains unclear if Gruenberg's pending nomination is a sign that other candidates — including the rest of the five-person FDIC board — will soon be announced. The administration has yet to name a comptroller nominee despite the fact that John Dugan, the previous head of the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, left last August. Speculation on Friday turned to Tom Curry, an independent director currently on the FDIC board, as a leading pick for the OCC job, after the New York Times listed him as a candidate.
Picking Gruenberg and Curry make some sense. Both men have already gone through the grueling Senate confirmation process, which has doomed recent Obama nominations to the Federal Housing Finance Agency and Federal Reserve Board. Although potential opponents could pick apart any decisions they have made in the more than half decade both have been in office at the FDIC, neither have made any significant gaffes likely to draw lawmakers' ire.
Gruenberg, despite being known as a strong consumer advocate, has proven to be a cautious, deliberative regulator, and his former Capitol Hill connections will likely make him more palatable to Sen. Richard Shelby, the Senate Banking Committee's top Republican. While Gruenberg is a registered Democrat, Curry is a political independent and former banking commissioner in Massachusetts. If he is nominated for the OCC job, he is expected to find bipartisan support.
Senate Banking Committee Chairman Tim Johnson praised Gruenberg shortly after the White House announcement, which came late Friday, saying he has "done excellent work" as vice chairman of the FDIC.
"I am confident that his intellect and years of experience in financial services, including distinguished service on the staff of the Senate Banking Committee, will make him an outstanding Chairman," Johnson said. "I plan to move his nomination through the Banking Committee as quickly as possible, and I hope he will be swiftly confirmed by the full Senate. It is vital that we have strong leaders in place at our financial regulators as we continue the economic recovery."
In a press release announcing Gruenberg's and another unrelated nomination, Obama said, "I am honored that these talented individuals have decided to join this Administration and serve our country. I look forward to working with them in the months and years to come."