By Sarah N. Lynch
WASHINGTON - Dick Berner, an official at the U.S. Treasury Department and former Morgan Stanley chief economist, has been nominated by President Barack Obama to head the new Office of Financial Research, the Obama administration said on Friday.
The Office of Financial Research, created by last year's Dodd-Frank Wall Street overhaul law, is a new Treasury Department division with broad powers to collect and analyze data from financial firms to help check for systemic risk.
Berner currently works as a counselor in the Office of Research and Quantitative Studies at the Treasury Department.
He was previously a member of the Economic Advisory Panel of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, the Panel of Economic Advisers of the Congressional Budget Office, the Executive Committee of the Board of Directors of the National Bureau of Economic Research, and the Advisory Committee of the Bureau of Economic Analysis.
Prior to working in the government, Berner was the chief economist at Morgan Stanley and also worked as chief economist at the Mellon Bank.
The Office of Financial Research has been working to get up and running since the passage of Dodd-Frank. It was created in response to the financial crisis, during which regulators failed to recognize the extent of subprime mortgage exposure throughout the financial system.
"For far too long, those charged with keeping the banking system stable have lacked the data and analytical power to keep up with complex and constantly evolving financial markets and products. The OFR was designed to help understand the factors that threaten our financial system, provide early warnings, and allow regulators to act on that information," said Senator Jack Reed, a senior Democrat on the Senate Banking Committee.
"I hope Mr. Berner can quickly be confirmed because with each day that passes, new financial products and activities go unanalyzed, and could put our economy at risk," he added.
Earlier this year, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner tapped Berner to advise him on a wide range of domestic finance issues. His duties at the Treasury Department have included working to set up the new research office.
Berner will need to be confirmed by the U.S. Senate.
Republicans have said they are concerned that the powers of the Office of Financial Research are too far-reaching and that it could become a target for hackers.
In a U.S. House hearing earlier this year, Berner told lawmakers the office would be "accountable and completely transparent" and that data security would be its top priority.
On Friday, Obama also nominated Nancy J. Powell to serve as an ambassador to India.
"These fine public servants both bring a depth of experience and tremendous dedication to their new roles," Obama said in a statement. "Our nation will be well-served by these individuals, and I look forward to working with them in the months and years to come."
(Reporting By Sarah N. Lynch; Editing by Gary Hill)