A Conversation with the Honorable Sheila C. Bair

October 4, 2012 - 2:00pm - 3:30pm
Low Library Rotunda
Columbia University
New York, NY 10027
United States
See video

A Conversation with

The Hon. Sheila C. Bair

with a discussion by

Professor Richard Clarida, C. Lowell Harriss Professor of Economics and International Affairs, Columbia University


Sheila C. Bair served as the 19th Chairman of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation for a five-year term, from June 2006 through June 2011.

Chairman Bair has an extensive background in banking and finance in a career that has taken her from Capitol Hill, to academia, to the highest levels of government. Before joining the FDIC in 2006, she was the Dean's Professor of Financial Regulatory Policy for the Isenberg School of Management at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst since 2002.  Her previous positions include serving as Assistant Secretary for Financial Institutions at the U.S. Department of the Treasury (2001 to 2002); Senior Vice President for Government Relations of the New York Stock Exchange (1995 to 2000); a Commissioner of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (1991 to 1995);  and Research Director, Deputy Counsel and Counsel to Senate Majority Leader Robert Dole (1981 to 1988).

As FDIC Chairman, Ms. Bair presided over a tumultuous period in the nation’s financial sector, working to bolster public confidence and system stability. Determined not to turn to taxpayer borrowing during the crisis, the FDIC managed its losses and liquidity needs entirely through its traditional industry-funded resources.  In response to the financial crisis, she developed innovative and stabilizing programs that provided temporary liquidity guarantees to unfreeze credit markets and increased deposit insurance limits.  In 2007, she was an early advocate for systematic loan modifications to stem the coming tidal wave of foreclosures. 

Ms. Bair has been a leading domestic and international advocate for common-sense capital and leverage ratios, and in her work at FDIC focused on consumer protection and economic inclusion. Under her leadership, the FDIC issued early calls for interagency guidance addressing high-risk mortgages, and was among the first to see the dangers of these unaffordable mortgages to the broader banking sector and to the economy as a whole. She championed the creation of an Advisory Committee on Economic Inclusion, seminal research on small-dollar loan programs, and the formation of broad-based alliances in nine regional markets to bring underserved populations into the financial mainstream.

She has received numerous prestigious honors and mentions for her leadership.  In 2008, she topped The Wall Street Journal's annual 50 "Women to Watch List".  In 2009 she was named one of TIME Magazine's "Time 100" most influential people; awarded the John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award; and received the Hubert H. Humphrey Civil Rights Award; and both in 2008 and 2009, Forbes Magazine named Ms. Bair as the second most powerful woman in the world, after Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel.  In 2010, Ms. Bair was featured on the cover of TIME Magazine with Mary Schapiro and Elizabeth Warren as “The New Sheriffs of Wall Street.” Also in 2010, she received the Better Business Bureau's Presidents' Award. In December of 2011, subsequent to leaving office, Ms. Bair was named by the Washington Post and Harvard University as one of seven of America’s Top Leaders.

A Kansan by birth, Ms. Bair was inducted into the University of Kansas Women’s Hall of Fame and received the Distinguished Kansan Award from the Native Sons and Daughters of Kansas in 2011.  In May of 2012, she joined fellow KU alumni Robert Dole and Ford CEO Alan Mulally in Lawrence, Kansas to receive the first honorary doctoral degrees ever granted by their alma mater.