Elizabeth Warren, an outspoken consumer rights advocate feared by Wall Street, is among top contenders to head a new financial consumer watchdog bureau, a senior White House adviser said on Friday.
"There are other candidates as well. But Elizabeth is certainly a candidate to lead it," adviser David Axelrod told reporters on a conference call, calling Warren a "great champion of middle-class consumers."
"She's going to be a strong voice" whether she leads it or not, Axelrod said.
The Obama administration must soon make a handful of key appointments of regulators to implement the landmark financial regulation reform bill approved by Congress on Thursday.
Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner considers consumer rights advocate Elizabeth Warren well qualified to head a new financial consumer watchdog bureau, a Treasury Department spokesman said on Friday.
"Given her strong leadership on consumer protection, Secretary Geithner believes that Elizabeth Warren is exceptionally well qualified to lead the new bureau, and, ultimately, that's a decision the president will have to make," Treasury spokesman Andrew Williams said.
Williams said Warren has been "a driving force behind the creation of the consumer financial protection bureau" that will be created as part of the financial regulation reform bill approved by Congress on Thursday. The future shape of bank oversight and the financial industry's profit outlook will, in part, be determined by how the regulators flesh out the details of the massive bill.
Warren is a Harvard Law School professor who has been chairing a congressional panel overseeing the 2008 bank bailout program. She is a strong critic of the banking industry and an outspoken advocate of consumer and investor rights.
Warren has been widely opposed by Republicans who unsuccessfully tried to block the bill for months.
She has been viewed for some months as a front-runner to head the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau that will be set up within the Federal Reserve under the legislation. The watchdog bureau will regulate mortgages and credit cards.
A source close to the White House said that in addition to Warren, others being considered for the watchdog job are Assistant Treasury Secretary Michael Barr and a Justice Department official, Eugene Kimmelman.
Treasury Deputy Assistant Secretary for Consumer Protection Eric Stein has also been rumored to be under consideration.
The Huffington Post, an online news source, reported on Friday that Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner opposes Warren.
"Even though many believe it would be impossible for her to be confirmed by the Senate, (President Barack) Obama could avoid a formal vote by appointing her during a congressional recess," said Concept Capital policy analysts Teddy Downey and Chris Krueger in a research report.
Obama must also appoint soon a replacement for U.S. Comptroller of the Currency John Dugan, whose term is expiring in August. He has said he will step down from his post as a high-level bank regulator.
In addition, the Fed must name a new vice-chairman for supervision to handle bank regulation.
Daniel Tarullo, presently a Fed governor and regulatory expert, is seen as a potential candidate for the post.