FHFA nomineee Smith must fight bank influence
Deciding what to do with Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the taxpayer-owned mortgage giants that helped set the financial crisis in motion, will be a huge job for Congress next year. The man in the middle of that melee is likely to be Joseph A. Smith Jr., the commissioner of banks for North Carolina since 2002. In November, the Obama administration nominated him to head the Federal Housing Finance Agency, Fannie and Freddie’s regulator. Last Thursday, Mr. Smith’s confirmation hearing took place. Beyond prepared remarks, Mr. Smith said little at the brief and sparsely attended hearing. Richard Shelby of Alabama, the ranking Republican on the Senate Banking Committee, questioned Mr. Smith about his plans for the agency and asked him to reply in writing. On Tuesday, the committee will consider the nomination. Mr. Smith’s bona fides are many. He has both industry and regulatory experience: before he became commissioner, he was a lawyer in private practice and a general counsel for Centura Banks, now a unit of RBC Bank.