UPDATED: Senate confirms McWilliams as next FDIC chair

Jelena McWilliams testifies at her January confirmation hearing.

The Senate, voting 69-24, on Thursday confirmed Jelena McWilliams to be chairman of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. (FDIC) Board. McWilliams’ nomination to a six-year term on the board was approved on voice vote.

McWilliams is now cleared to replace Martin Gruenberg as chairman and to fill the director seat vacated recently by Thomas Hoenig, who was vice chairman. Gruenberg’s term as chairman ended in November, but he has been serving in holdover capacity pending McWilliams’ confirmation, as is permitted under the Federal Deposit Insurance Act. He remains a member of the FDIC Board, serving a term that ends this December.

McWilliams was nominated by President Donald Trump to a term as FDIC chairman that continues into 2023; and as a board member into 2024.

The nomination of McWilliams to replace Hoenig (who stepped down in late April) as a board member was a last-minute change by the White House. Originally, she had been nominated to fill a six-year term in the place of Jeremiah O’Hear Norton, who resigned in 2015 after serving three years on the board. On the eve of her hearing before the Senate Banking Committee, the White House changed plans, withdrew that nomination and resubmitted one to have McWilliams fill the seat Hoenig held.

Previous reports have said Gruenberg, a Democrat, has been recommended to be appointed vice chair (succeeding Hoenig) by Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., but that the White House has been cool to the recommendation.

McWilliams, 44, has been serving as executive vice president, chief legal officer, and corporate secretary for Fifth Third Bank in Cincinnati, Ohio. Before that, she was chief counsel and deputy staff director for the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee. She previously served as assistant chief counsel for the Senate Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee.

Previously, she was an attorney at the Federal Reserve Board. She practiced corporate and securities law at Morrison & Foerster LLP in Palo Alto, Calif., and Hogan & Hartson LLP (now Hogan Lovells LLP) in Washington, D.C.

She holds a B.S. in political science from the University of California (Berkeley); she earned her law degree from the U.C. Berkeley School of Law. She is a native of Belgrade, Serbia, and came to the United States as a teenager.

BIO: Jelena McWilliams