U.S. SEC taps new chief economist from University of Florida

WASHINGTON, July 21 Mon Jul 21, 2014 2:15pm EDT

WASHINGTON, July 21 (Reuters) - The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission on Monday announced it has tapped a University of Florida professor to serve as the agency's new chief economist.

Mark Flannery, a finance professor with the school's Warrington School of Business Administration, will also serve as the director of the SEC's Division of Economic and Risk Analysis, a unit that studies the impact of SEC rules and provides data analysis to help the enforcement and examination staff.

Flannery previously taught at several other universities, including the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the University of Pennsylvania.

He has also published a variety of research papers on corporate finance, capital markets and banking, and systemic risk.

"Professor Flannery is a widely respected economist with extensive experience in many areas relevant to the SEC's mission, including the regulation of financial institutions, corporate finance, private funds, and credit ratings agencies," said SEC Chair Mary Jo White in a statement.

Since 2011, Flannery has been serving as a senior adviser to the Office of Financial Research (OFR), a research arm of the U.S. Treasury Department tasked with studying the market for emerging potential systemic risks.

The OFR and the SEC have had a somewhat rocky relationship, after the OFR in 2013 issued a controversial report warning that the activities of large asset managers could pose risks.

The SEC, which regulates asset managers, took issue with many claims in a draft of the report, saying it contained errors.

The OFR made some changes the SEC requested, but the SEC was still dissatisfied with the final product and later invited the public to comment on the study's findings.

That prompted the industry and lawmakers from both political parties on Capitol Hill to flood the regulators with a deluge of comments that were highly critical of the report.

OFR has defended the report's findings, but the industry has continued to criticize it, saying it contains flaws.

In addition to serving as an adviser to the OFR, Flannery also has served on the Federal Reserve's Model Validation Council since May 2012 and was a resident scholar for the New York Fed's research department from 2009-2010.

He holds an undergraduate degree from Princeton University, and a master's and doctorate from Yale University.

Flannery replaces former SEC Chief Economist Craig Lewis, who departed the agency earlier this year to return to his academic post at Vanderbilt University.

The SEC said Flannery will start his new job in September.

SEC Republican Commissioner Mike Piwowar, who is also an economist, lauded the agency's announcement about Flannery's hiring.

He added that Flannery is "particularly well-suited" to help the SEC as it continues working to modernize its disclosure requirements, including rules for banks that have not been updated since 1986. (Reporting by Sarah N. Lynch; Editing by Bernard Orr)