Ford Dean Michael Barr likely secures appointment to high level Treasury Dept. position

Wednesday, January 20, 2021 - 11:48pm

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Annie Klusendorf/Daily

President Joe Biden is expected to nominate Michael S. Barr — former Treasury Department official and current dean of the University of Michigan’s Ford School of Public Policy — as the new comptroller of the currency, according to a report from The Wall Street Journal. This role would include overseeing and regulating the national banking system.

As comptroller of the currency, Barr also would be expected to address the needs of those excluded from the country’s current financial system, most notably by working to open the application process for private loans or government aid to individuals without a credit score. Brian Brooks previously held the position after being appointed by Trump last March, but stepped down last week. 

Barr previously served as an assistant secretary for financial institutions in the Treasury Department under the Obama administration and worked in a number of roles in the Treasury Department and State Department under former President Bill Clinton. Barr was a key contributor in reducing the fallout from the 2008 economic crisis and in creating legislation to increase consumer protections, including the Dodd-Frank Act of 2010 that changed financial regulation in the aftermath of the recession.

Barr was also one of the four U-M professors chosen to help Biden transition to the presidency shortly after he was elected in November. In an email to students following the election, Barr congratulated Biden on his win and praised his character.

“I also think it is fair to say, that those who have worked with President-elect Biden, from across the political spectrum, whether or not they agree with him on policy or politics, view him as a person of great personal integrity, decency, and compassion,” Barr wrote.

Barr has previously criticized Trump’s reduction in consumer protection laws, saying that a stronger Consumer Finance Protection Bureau is necessary and that the Trump administration should generate stronger capital and liquidity regulations, among other things. 

In a June 2020 panel discussion at the Ford School, Barr discussed how the next administration would need to work in coming months to “undo the damage caused by the last four years of policy” and recover from the COVID-19 pandemic. 

We need to get our economy back on its feet, which will take significant new investments by the federal government, starting with support for state and local governments, and continued aid to families who lost their livelihoods,” Barr said. “Then we’ll have to return to the path of reform in the financial sector to make the financial system work better for American businesses and households.”

At the University, Barr is a professor of Public Policy, a professor at the Law School and a director of the University’s Center on Finance, Law and Policy. Barr has also conducted research and authored books on financial regulation.

University of California, Irvine Law professor Mehrsa Baradaran was also reportedly being considered for the position. 

Barr did not immediately respond to The Daily’s request for comment. 

Daily Staff Reporter Martha Lewand can be reached at mlewand@umich.edu


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