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Senate Confirms Top FDIC, OCC Bank Regulators

The Senate confirmed President Obama's picks for the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp (FDIC) and the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC).

WASHINGTON - The U.S. Senate on Thursday confirmed President Barack Obama's picks for key spots at the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp (FDIC)and the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC), banking agencies that are playing a vital role in implementing the 2010 Dodd-Frank financial oversight law.

The Senate voted to confirm Thomas Curry to lead the OCC, and confirmed Martin Gruenberg, former Kansas City Federal Reserve Bank President Thomas Hoenig and JP Morgan Chase and Co executive Jeremiah Norton to fill openings on the five-member FDIC board.

Both Curry and Gruenberg are currently members of the FDIC board. Gruenberg has been serving as the regulator's acting chairman since July, when former FDIC chief Sheila Bair stepped down.

Obama had nominated Gruenberg to be FDIC chairman and Hoenig to be vice chairman, but the Senate only voted to confirm them as members of the board.

A separate vote would be taken to confirm them to their leadership posts and in the meantime Gruenberg would remain as acting chairman, according to a Senate aide.

The move will buy more time for possible negotiations between Republicans and Democrats over who should lead the FDIC, a decision that may have to wait until after the November elections.

If Republicans win the presidency they will likely want to nominate their own pick for FDIC chairman.

"The Senate confirmation of the three pending FDIC nominees gives the Corporation a complete five-member board and provides additional stability and continuity moving forward," Gruenberg said in a statement after the vote.

"This is an important step as the FDIC continues to respond to a number of challenging issues and continues with the rulemaking process."

The other two board spots will be filled by Curry in his role as OCC head and Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Director Richard Cordray.

Hoenig has been a vocal critic of Wall Street and has advocated breaking up the largest banks while promoting the value of community banks.

Norton currently works as an executive director for JP Morgan Securities LLC, where he advises institutions on mergers and acquisitions. He previously served as a deputy assistant secretary for financial institutions policy at the U.S. Treasury Department from 2007 to 2009.

Prior to joining the FDIC board in 2004 Curry was a Massachusetts state banking regulator.

Gruenberg worked as a Senate Democratic aide before joining the FDIC in 2005.

Hoenig and Norton were recommended for their posts by Senate Republicans. The president traditionally fills the board with two members suggested by the opposition party because no more than three members of the board can be from the same party.

The FDIC is the chief regulator of community banks but it also was given greater powers over the entire industry under Dodd-Frank.

The agency, for example, is now charged with liquidating large, failing financial giants that the government seizes as part of an effort to avoid the type of market chaos that followed the bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers in September 2008. (Reporting By Glenn Somerville, Dave Clarke and Thomas Ferraro; editing by Andre Grenon and Richard Pullin)

Copyright 2010 by Reuters. All rights reserved.

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