RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) – President Barack Obama has called on a Capitol Hill veteran seasoned in business, law and civil rights to head the federal regulatory body that oversees the two national mortgage lending behemoths behind most new mortgages
Obama on May 1 picked U.S. Rep Mel Watt, 67, a Democrat from Charlotte, N.C., to run the Federal Housing Finance Agency.
Watt became the second North Carolinian tapped for a Washington post following Charlotte Mayor Anthony Foxx’s nomination as transportation secretary two days earlier.
Foxx is credited with helping turn Charlotte around since taking office in 2009. Both the city and country were going through a “bruising economic crisis,” Obama said when announcing his nomination.
“The economy is growing. There are more jobs, more opportunity. And if you ask Anthony how that happened, he’ll tell you that one of the reasons is that Charlotte made one of the largest investments in transportation in the city’s history.”
The Federal Housing Finance Agency oversees Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the companies taxpayers spent about $170 billion to rescue at the height of the financial crisis in September 2008 as the housing bubble popped. Fannie and
Freddie together own or guarantee about half of all U.S. mortgages.
Now that the U.S. housing market is improving, foreclosures are declining, and Fannie Mae is coming off its largest ever annual profit in 2012, Obama may press for new reforms in the way American homes are financed.
As a House Judiciary Committee member, Watt has concentrated on intellectual property and competition issues.
On the Financial Services Committee, the lawmaker from Bank of America’s hometown focused on
capital markets and consumer credit.
Some credit Watt with an influential role in the 2010 passage of the Dodd-Frank financial law overhaul.
He also pushed for new regulations on aggressive lending and credit card consumer protections.
He proposed extending oversight to auto dealers of the Consumer Financial Protection Agency responsible for making banks, credit card companies and mortgage lenders treat the average person fairly.
South Florida Times staff contributed to this report.