Facing Crisis, Obama Moves Quickly to Fill Economic Posts
In the face of the deepening financial crisis and the largest Wall Street swindle in history, President-elect Barack Obama acted swiftly to fill three key economic posts. He announced his appointments at a press conference this morning in Chicago.
“The regulators who were assigned to oversee Wall Street dropped the ball” in this economic downturn and “reminded us yet again how badly reform is needed,” Obama said. For this reason, he noted, “I’m announcing these appointments months earlier than past administrations have.”
To head the Securities and Exchange Commission, Obama appointed Mary Schapiro. Schapiro is an SEC veteran, having served as a commissioner from 1988 to 1994, including two months as acting chairwoman in 1993. She is currently the chief executive of the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, an independent oversight organization whose “chief role is to protect investors by maintaining the fairness of the U.S. capital markets,” according to its website. In confirmed, she will be the first woman to hold this post.
The SEC has come under fire in recent months. During the presidential campaign, John McCain said that if he were president, he would fire SEC head Christopher Cox for allowing the financial crisis, although it’s unclear that he would have the authority to do so. Now, the SEC has been accused of sleeping at the wheel during Bernard Madoff’s $50-billion Ponzi scheme.
“As the events of the past year, even the past week, have shown us, this is a perilous time for investors,” said Schapiro. She and Obama both stressed the need for increased regulation to get Wall Street back on its feet.
Obama also announced the appointment of Gary Gensler to lead the Commodities Futures Trading Commission. Gensler spent 18 years at Goldman Sachs before serving as assistant secretary of the Treasury from 1997 to 1999 and undersecretary of the Treasury from 1999 to 2001. He also worked on Obama’s economic transition team.
Finally, Obama named Dan Tarullo, whom he called “one of my trusted economic advisers,” to an open seat on the Federal Reserve Board. Tarullo, a Georgetown law professor, differs from the other Fed governors in that he does not have an academic background in economics or a professional background in finance, according to Bloomberg. Instead, his expertise is in law and international trade. He served as President Bill Clinton’s representative at several Group of Eight summits.
Tomorrow, Obama is expected to announce the appointment of Rep. Ray LaHood (R-Ill.) as his transportation secretary.