After a long and contentious delay Melvin L. Watt
was sworn in today to a five year term as Director of the Federal Housing Finance
Agency (FHFA). Watt, who was a sitting
member of Congress from North Carolina at the time of his confirmation, becomes
the first Senate-confirmed director of the agency which was created in
2008. He replaces acting director Edward
J. DeMarco who assumed the position after the resignation of James Lockhart,
the director of the Office of Federal Housing Enterprise Oversight the
predecessor agency to FHFA. The 2009
appointment of another North Carolinian, that state's banking commissioner
Joseph Smith, was blocked by Senate Republicans.
Watt will act as regulator of the government
sponsored enterprises (GSEs) Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae and the 12 Federal Home
Loan Banks. As such he will effective
oversee the $5.5 trillion mortgage finance market. FHFA also serves as conservator of the two
GSEs which were placed under government control in 2008.
In a statement issued by FHFA Watt said, "I am
honored to serve as Director of the Federal Housing Finance Agency. Today's housing finance system is one of the
keys to our economic recovery and I am grateful for the opportunity to help
develop a strong foundation for moving this system forward for the benefit of
all Americans at this critical point in our nation's history."
The oath was
administered to the 21 year member of the House of Representatives by the
Honorable Anthony Foxx, U.S. Secretary of Transportation and former mayor of
Charlotte, North Carolina. While in
Congress, Watt who is 68 served on the Committee on Financial Services and its
Subcommittee on Capital Markets and Government Sponsored Enterprises, the House
Judiciary Committee, where he was Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on
Intellectual Property, Competition and the Internet and as Chairman of the
Congressional Black Caucus.
nominated to his new position in May and his nomination cleared the Senate
Banking Committee in July but a confirmation vote was filibustered in the
Senate until Democrats made sweeping changes to Senate rules which allowed Watt's
confirmation nomination along with those of a number of federal judges.
The new director is a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of the
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
He received a law degree from Yale University Law School and practiced
law for over 20 years as well as serving a term in the North Carolina Senate.