2 more Obama economic aides stepping down

By Dow Jones Newswires
Posted Nov. 22, 2010 at 5:33 p.m.

Two more of the Obama administration’s top economic advisers are leaving at a time when the White House is facing growing opposition to its economic policies on Capitol Hill.

White House National Economic Committee Deputy Director Diana Farrell and Treasury Department Assistant Secretary for financial institutions Michael Barr are both planning to leave within weeks, people familiar with the matter said.

Both played central roles in the Obama administration’s response to the financial crisis, acting as lead architects of the financial overhaul that President Barack Obama signed into law in July.

“I am deeply grateful for the opportunity to serve President Obama and the country and proud of the progress we’ve made toward rebuilding trust in our financial system and moving our economy closer to recovery,” Farrell said in a statement. “It was a privilege to work with such a fine group of people at the White House and across the administration.”

Farrell’s departure would mark the second high-profile departure of the NEC in December.

Director Lawrence Summers is stepping down next month, giving the Obama administration the chance to remake a body that plays a lead role in formulating economic policy and communication with businesses. Roger Altman, a Wall Street executive who was a deputy Treasury secretary during the Clinton administration, has emerged as one of several top candidates to fill  Summers’ spot. Likewise Farrell was rumored to be a candidate to replace  Summers, but she took her name out of consideration for the post, people familiar with the matter said.

The Obama administration has seen turnover in many parts of its economics team in recent months, with Council of Economic Advisers Chairman Christina Romer and Office of Management and Budget Director Peter Orzag also leaving in recent months. Both those jobs have since been filled.

Among Farrell’s responsibilities, she was part of the White House’s auto task force that worked on the restructuring of General Motors and Chrysler and played a key role in the administration’s efforts to address the housing crisis.

“I am grateful to Diana for her service to the nation during extraordinary economic times,”  Summers said. “Her natural talent as a policy maker and her good judgment made her invaluable in setting a course for economic recovery.”

Farrell and Barr were involved in nearly every stage of the push for new financial regulations.  Barr was a candidate to run the new consumer-finance regulator.

They  mapped out the contours of the new financial regulations  Obama proposed in June 2009. They then spent much of the next year working with Congress and other officials as the plan was revised multiple times, including the high-stakes negotiations one night in July when infighting amongst Democrats appeared to potentially threaten a final deal. Both fought aggressively for the creation of a new agency to police consumer financial products, which proved to be of the most controversial parts of the White House’s proposal.

Before  joining the White House,  Farrell was director of McKinsey & Co.’s economics research division, McKinsey Global Institute. Barr taught law at the University of Michigan Law School, to where he is returning.


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