By Sarah N. Lynch
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Securities and Exchange Commission has tapped Vanderbilt University professor Craig Lewis as its new chief economist and head of the Risk, Strategy and Financial Innovation division.
Lewis is currently a visiting scholar at the SEC and will assume his new position next month. He was one of six candidates who interviewed for the job, including other academics and a Goldman Sachs candidate.
The position of chief economist is crucial to helping the agency validate the costs and benefits of the roughly 100 new rules it must implement under the Dodd-Frank law overhauling Wall Street.
The Risk, Strategy and Financial Innovation division was created in 2009 as a "think tank" for the agency to help improve coordination across divisions, spot emerging trends and promote interdisciplinary analysis.
It was first led by University of Texas law professor Henry Hu, who returned to academia in January. The division, known as "Risk Fin," has struggled to find its footing in the lawyer-dominated agency.
"Craig is an outstanding financial economist," said former SEC chief economist Jim Overdahl, who now works for NERA Economic Consulting. "He is highly regarded both inside and outside the SEC."
Lewis is a finance professor at Vanderbilt University's Owen Graduate School of Management. He served as a visiting academic fellow at the SEC from January through July of 2010 and returned as a fellow in January of this year where he has continued to work on areas, including over-the-counter derivatives regulation, and helping to identify securities laws violations.
"Professor Lewis is a distinguished economist with a clear understanding of the complexities of financial markets," SEC Chairman Mary Schapiro said in a statement. "As the head of the division, he will not only lead our qualified team of expert economists, but will also help to inject strong data-driven analysis into the SEC's decision-making process."
Lewis has taught corporate finance and economics since 1983 and is also the recipient of several teaching awards.
He is a certified public accountant and holds an undergraduate degree in accounting from Ohio State University and a master's and doctorate in finance from the University of Wisconsin at Madison.
(Reporting by Sarah N. Lynch; editing by Lisa Von Ahn and Andre Grenon)