WASHINGTON – Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. Chairman Sheila Bair on Wednesday criticized the federal government for failing to take more aggressive steps to prevent Americans from losing their homes, highlighting a rift between her and other senior U.S. officials over terms of the $700 billion rescue package.
The government plan will help stabilize financial markets but it doesn't do enough to address home foreclosures, the root of the crisis, she said in an interview with The Wall Street Journal.
"Why there's been such a political focus on making sure we're not unduly helping borrowers but then we're providing all this massive assistance at the institutional level, I don't understand it," she said. "It's been a frustration for me."
Ms. Bair didn't single out government officials or leaders, but her criticisms brushed on decisions made by both the Bush administration and Congress. For example, she described painstaking efforts made by lawmakers in crafting the federal Hope for Homeowners program to make sure it limited resale profits for borrowers who received affordable home loans.
Ms. Bair, who was nominated by the White House and confirmed by the Senate in 2006, has frequently said government and industry efforts to prevent foreclosures aren't effective enough. She has long defended her focus on consumer protection as a key role for the FDIC, which is charged with protecting bank deposits.
Her comments Wednesday came amid growing tensions with key figures in resolving the financial crisis, notably Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson and Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke, according to people familiar with the matter.
Defenders of the Bush administration's rescue plan say tackling problems at the heart of the banking industry, in particular the loss of public confidence in financial institutions, is the government's primary responsibility. Officials say the freezing up of many financial markets threatens consumers and businesses by choking off the credit that is the lifeblood of the economy.Click here to read the Wall Street Journal report.