Obama nominates Md. official for Fed board

By Neil Irwin
Monday, May 3, 2010

For the last three years, Sarah Bloom Raskin has been very familiar to bankers in Maryland, as she has led the state's oversight of financial institutions. Now she is poised to get a rather broader portfolio.

President Obama nominated Raskin to be a governor on the Federal Reserve Board last week, where, if confirmed by the Senate, she would be one of seven officials charged with leading the central bank.

As an expert on banking law, consumer protection and the ground-level concerns of small banks, Raskin, 49, would likely take a major role in the Fed's regulatory responsibilities. The Fed currently oversees 5,000 bank holding companies and about 800 state-chartered banks, though whether it will continue to have those responsibilities is up in the air in legislation to overhaul the financial regulatory system now before Congress.

As a governor, she will also serve as a member of the Federal Open Market Committee, which sets the nation's monetary policy. Typically, though, regulatory specialists such as Raskin on the committee defer to the Fed chairman's preferences on monetary policy; Raskin has a law degree from Harvard, but no advanced degree in economics.

And Raskin is no stranger to Washington; previous jobs included a stint at Promontory Financial Group, a bank consultancy, and staffer to the Senate Banking Committee.

As Maryland commissioner of financial regulation since 2007, Raskin began an effort to license mortgage brokers in the state, worked with prosecutors to combat mortgage scams, among other efforts. In a December speech to Maryland bankers, she seemed to acknowledge some frustration with the fast-changing regulatory environment facing the nation's banks in the post-financial-crisis world.

"There is no question that banks are confronting a set of challenges very different and in certain ways more immovable than any of us expected," Raskin said, according to a text of the speech posted on her department's Web site. "These challenges have been only compounded by what is perceived by community banks as a confounding, and uncoordinated, set of policy decisions and proposals that sometimes seem to bear no connection to the local economic environment. The federal response to our nation's crisis ... has been nothing short of breath-taking."

She won't have to move to take the job at the Fed's headquarters in Foggy Bottom: She lives in Takoma Park with her husband, Maryland state Sen. Jamie B. Raskin (D-Montgomery), and three teenage children.

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