Sheila Bair, who left the FDIC on July 8, has seen the agency through good times and bad during her five years of service at the helm of the agency, with some of the most far-reaching changes in regulation coming to fruition on her watch. (On July 20, the FDIC announced that Bair would be joining the Pew Charitable Trust as a senior advisor on Sept. 7.)
Bair was appointed to the chair of the FDIC midway through 2006, as the boom times were still booming. The Kansas Republican was more in tune with strict-constructionist regulation than might have been expected from someone with her background. After all, her political career had flourished in association with Sen. Bob Dole, R-Kan.; she had been a top Republican staffer in the Senate and also acted as legal counsel to the New York Stock Exchange.
But in 1991 Dole helped her gain an appointment to the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC), where in 1993 she cast the sole dissenting vote against looser regulation of energy ETFs before Enron became a household word for fraud.
After President George W. Bush named her assistant treasury secretary for financial institutions in 2001, Baird found herself once more in the hot seat, anticipating yet another financial disaster.
This time it was subprime mortgages, and Bair saw the potential for trouble. While she succeeded in pushing through industry best practices regarding subprimes and predatory lending, the measures had no teeth; there was no means of enforcing them.