Jelena McWilliams, a Yugoslavian immigrant with degrees from UC Berkeley, has been nominated to lead the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, which regulates the nation’s banking system.
She arrived in the United States on July 29,1991, her 18th birthday, and proceeded to earn a B.A. with highest honors in political science and mass communications from UC Berkeley in 1999. She earned a J.D. at Berkeley Law three years later.
McWilliams practiced corporate transaction law in the private sector for almost five years, and in 2007 joined the Federal Reserve Board of Governors as an attorney, focusing on consumer financial services and regulation.
After three years, she became assistant chief counsel for the Republican-led Senate Small Business Committee, before moving to the Senate Banking Committee as senior counsel. Most recently, McWilliams has served as the chief legal officer of Cincinnati-based Fifth Third Bancorp.
As a U.S. Senate staffer, McWilliams is said to have carried around an annotated copy of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act bound in a small book.
Admired for her encyclopedic knowledge of banking law and her openness to differing opinions, she is described by a former Democratic staff director on the Senate Banking Committee as “someone you could disagree with, without her being disagreeable.”
Her appointment to a six-year term must be approved by the Senate.
The current FDIC chair, Martin Gruenberg, has resisted Trump administration pressure to scale back rules on the financial sector that it contends are needed to boost the economy.
A previous nominee to replace Gruenberg withdrew his name from consideration.