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University of Massachusetts Professor tops Forbes power list

n.bairThe most powerful woman in America, according to Forbes Magazine, is a Professor at the University of Massachusetts’s Isenberg School of Management. 

Sheila Bair, Chairwoman of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, was Professor of Regulatory Policy at UMass before going on leave after she was appointed in 2006 by President George W. Bush to her current office.

The annual Forbes list was assembled by combining the number of press mentions with the size of the organization or nation the candidate heads.      

 “I think they’re trying to sell magazines,” said Professor Thomas O’Brien, Dean of the Isenberg School of Management from 1987 to 2006.  “I don’t think the power of the FDIC is as great as they describe.”

Due to the economic crisis, Bair, and the FDIC, have achieved greater prominence than usual.  She has sought greater powers from Congress to deal with the economic crisis more efficiently.  These actions have brought her into direct conflict with Treasury Secretary Timothy Geitner and Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke.

The FDIC insures consumer deposits and regulates state-chartered banks which are not part of the Federal Reserve System.  As of September 12, 2009, 116 banks have failed under Bair’s tenure, according the the insurance corporation’s official website.  Nevertheless, she has great confidence in the American banking system.

In a press release from the Quarterly Banking Profile Press Conference dated August 27, Blair said, “Your insured deposits are safe.  And again, no insured depositor has ever lost a penny of insured deposits . . . and no one ever will.”

However, during the Savings & Loan crisis of the 1980’s, the Federal Savings & Loan Insurance Corporation became extremely insolvent and thus had to be abolished.  The remaining insured deposits were paid by Congress, which appropriated $154 billion.

Also on the Forbes list was German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who was named the most powerful woman in the world for the fourth consecutive year.  On the international list, Bair ranked second. 

“I’m looking forward to her returning one day,” O’Brien added.  “She’s a terrific lady.”

Matthew M. Robare can be reached at mrobare@student.umass.edu

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