By Chris Bruce
The Federal Reserve Board July 6 said Mark E. Van Der Weide will serve as general counsel, succeeding Scott Alvarez, who announced in February his plan to retire after more than three decades of service at the Fed.
Van Der Weide, who joined the Fed’s legal division in 1998, had been widely expected to be tapped for the post. Banking lawyers called Van der Weide the right choice to help navigate what they called an important period of transition for the banking industry and its overseers.
“It took a long time to make an easy decision,” said Oliver I. Ireland, a partner with Morrison & Foerster in Washington.
Alvarez will leave the Fed after nearly 36 years of service, including 12 years as head of the Fed’s legal division. Fed spokeswoman Susan Stawick said Alvarez will depart later this year, but said she wasn’t able to say when, or to detail his post-retirement plans.
According to the Fed, Van Der Weide has held positions in the Fed’s division of supervision and regulation since 2010, most recently as deputy director. After joining the legal division in 1998, he served there until 2009, when he spent 2009 and 2010 on loan to the Treasury Department. There, where he helped lay the groundwork for financial reform legislation eventually enacted as the Dodd-Frank Act.
“Van Der Weide’s fingerprints are on nearly all the important banking regulations the Fed has released since then,” Ian Katz of Capital Alpha said in a note on the Fed’s announcement.
Van Der Weide began his legal career in the Washington office of Cleary, Gottlieb, Steen & Hamilton. He holds a bachelor’s degree in history and philosophy from the University of Iowa and a law degree from Yale Law School.
“The Board gave thorough consideration to many highly qualified internal and external candidates and Mr. Van Der Weide was chosen for his exceptional skills and experience,” the Fed said in a statement.
Jack Murphy, a financial services veteran who recently returned to Cleary Gottlieb following senior positions with Promontory Financial Group, said Van Der Weide steps into an especially important position.
“Historically, the role of the Federal Reserve’s general counsel has been extremely important, because so many U.S. and foreign banks fall under the Fed’s jurisdictional umbrella,” said Murphy, a former general counsel of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. and a former special counsel to the Securities and Exchange Commission. “It’s a position that has only grown in importance over time.”
Murphy and Ireland both said the appointment comes at a critical time. According to Ireland, the present period marks a turning point in the regulatory world, “where the focus is shifting from responding to the crisis to improving the efficiency or the financial system and removing unnecessary burden.”
“For the banking sector the Fed, as the primary regulator of systemically important holding companies, will play a key role in that process,” Ireland said. “Mark is intimately familiar with both the crisis and the responses and is in a particularly good position to guide help the Fed through the next steps.”
Murphy struck a similar note, calling Van der Weide the perfect choice to take on the general counsel’s job as financial institutions and policymakers look back at several years of responses to the financial crisis and ahead to possible change and recalibration. “To me, Mark is the ideal candidate to take on that role,” Murphy said. “He is highly regarded by the Board and the staff and by the industry.”
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