July 20, 2010 / 3:31 PM / 9 years ago

Obama to consider consumer chief "fairly quickly"

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. President Barack Obama will move “fairly quickly” to choose a head for the new Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection, Deputy Treasury Secretary Neal Wolin said on Tuesday.

The new bureau, created by the landmark financial reform legislation that Obama is to sign on Wednesday, will regulate consumer financial products ranging from credit cards to mortgages. The Obama administration considered it one of the most critical parts of the bill.

“We are identifying possible candidates,” Wolin told a news briefing on implementation of the legislation.

“Obviously it’s the president’s decision ultimately as to who he wants to nominate to be the first director of the consumer bureau. I think that you should expect that he will turn to this in fairly short order, but it will be the president’s decision about exactly who and when,” he added.

Neither Wolin nor White House Economic Council Deputy Director Diana Farrell would be more specific on the timing of the nomination, other than to say it would be as soon as practicable.

“I think you should expect (it) fairly quickly,” Wolin added.

Among top candidates for the position are Elizabeth Warren, a Harvard Law School professor who chairs a government bailout oversight panel; Michael Barr, Treasury assistant secretary for financial institutions; and Gene Kimmelman, the Justice Department’s chief counsel for competition policy and intergovernmental relations.

On Monday, Wolin denied that U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner was opposed to Warren as head of the new bureau as some media have reported, saying instead that she was very well qualified to lead the bureau.

Wolin said the Obama administration aimed to have the new consumer regulator up and running with its full authorities within a year of Obama’s signature. He said the agency could be ready for business sooner, but it was important to ensure that it is able to handle all of its statutory responsibilities.

“If we can get it done sooner and make sure that we can get it done right, we certainly will want to do that.”

Wolin said that the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp in consultation with Geithner will immediately have so-called “resolution authority” to seize and shut down failing large financial institutions upon Obama’s signature. But he said as a practical matter, the FDIC will have to put in place procedures and rules for exercising this authority.

Additional reporting by Alister Bull, Editing by Chizu Nomiyama

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