Jelena McWilliams does not take accepting a job lightly. She is said, for instance, to have agonized over former President Donald Trump’s offer of a nomination to serve as chair of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., having become chief legal officer at Fifth Third Bancorp just months before.
The opportunity to take part in the Great Regulatory Bonfire of 2017-2021, however, proved too great a lure, and McWilliams took the job. And with gusto: While other members of Team Trump jumped ship, she burned the midnight oil, working right up until the last minute to shred as many rules as possible.
In December 2020, after Mr. Biden was declared the winner of the presidential election, Ms. McWilliams rushed through a change to an F.D.I.C. rule governing certain bank deposits. She circulated the final version of the proposal at midnight on the day before the board had to vote on it. Once Mr. Biden was able to make appointments to the F.D.I.C. board, the rule would not have had the votes to succeed.
Indeed, the FDIC currently has a three-to-one Democratic majority, and so the deregulatory party is very much over. Still, in her dogged stick-to-it-iveness regarding jobs (she has, after all, a five-year term that doesn’t end until 2023) and the Trumpist agenda, it must be said that she’s developed a newfound respect for bureaucracy and procedure.
The F.D.I.C. board members’ internal disagreement spilled into public view on Thursday afternoon after [Martin] Gruenberg, [Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Director Rohit] Chopra and [Acting Comptroller of the Currency Michael] Hsu voted over email to produce a request for public comment on the subject of bank mergers — and then posted their notice on the website of the consumer bureau, which Mr. Chopra runs…. When the voting process for the proposal began in late November, Ms. McWilliams did not vote, claiming that the process had violated procedure and no vote would be valid, the people said.
On Thursday, senior F.D.I.C. officials said they would not complete the process needed to make the information request official. They said the move by the two Democrats did not follow proper procedure and was therefore invalid.
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