US president George Bush said he intends to nominate Mark Brickell, chief executive of Blackbird Holdings and a veteran of the derivatives industry, as director of the Office of Federal Housing Enterprise Oversight (OFHEO) at the Department of Housing and Urban Development, for a term of five years.Federal agencies will now conduct an extensive background check on Brickell, which, if satisfactory, will result in Bush formally nominating him to the US Senate. Should the Senate approve the nomination, Brickell would replace Armando Falcon as the director of the OFHEO, a White House spokeswoman told RiskNews. Falcon has held the post since October 1999. It is unclear why Falcon is set to leave the post early, as directors are voted in for five-year terms.
The OFHEO is the government body promoting housing and a strong US economy by ensuring the safety and soundness of mortgage agencies Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. It was established as an independent entity within the Department of Housing and Urban Development by the Federal Housing Enterprises Financial Safety and Soundness Act of 1992.
The OFHEO conducts broad-based examinations of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac aimed at developing a risk-based capital standard. It uses stress tests that simulate stressful interest rate and credit risk scenarios, makes quarterly findings of capital adequacy based on minimum capital standards and a risk-based standard, prohibits excessive executive compensation, issues regulations concerning capital and enforcement standards, and takes necessary enforcement actions.
Brickell had previously held a number of senior positions at JP Morgan prior to its $36 billion takeover by Chase Manhattan in 2000. He was an interest rate swaps pioneer and a founder and former head of the International Swaps and Derivatives Association while at the US investment bank.
He has a long association with Washington, and acted in a lobbying capacity while employed at JP Morgan, industry participants said. His political connections are believed to have resulted in potential government and anti-trust investigations into inter-dealer broker Icap, following its attempts to take control of electronic swaps company Blackbird last year. Icap eventually sold its stake in Blackbird and hired its own set of Washington lobbyists following the episode.
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