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FDIC chair, a Trump holdover, resigns after partisan fight goes public

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The Republican chair of the FDIC will step down on Feb. 4 – more than a year ahead of schedule – in the wake of a messy public battle over who should set the agenda for the normally apolitical banking regulatory agency.

Jelena McWilliams, who was appointed to head the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. by President Donald Trump in 2018, said Friday that she will cut her five-year term short after an internal power struggle spilled into public view last month.

“When I immigrated to this country 30 years ago, I did so with a firm belief in the American system of government,” the Yugoslavia-born McWilliams wrote in a resignation letter to President Joe Biden that made no mention of the partisan brawl. “It has been a tremendous honor to serve this nation, and I did not take a single day for granted.”

In December, McWilliams, the only Trump holdover on the five-member board, accused her Democratic colleagues of staging a “hostile takeover” after they attempted to wrest control of its agenda from her and engineer a vote on changes to the rules governing bank mergers.

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FDIC board member Martin Gruenberg will become acting chair. 
Bloomberg via Getty Images

The shakeup will hand full control of the typically bipartisan board to Democrats, fanning progressives’ hopes for major banking-industry changes. McWilliams, for example, had refused to sign off on a federal report that identified climate change as a threat to the nation’s financial system.

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McWilliams’ surprise announcement came three weeks after Saule Omarova, Biden’s controversial nominee for the role of comptroller of the currency, was forced to withdraw from consideration after her radical views on the nation’s banking system drew fire from senators of both parties.

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