WASHINGTON — Dennis Lockhart, the president of the Federal Reserve’s Atlanta regional bank, announced Tuesday that he plans to step down in February of next year.
Lockhart is leaving after a decade as president of the Atlanta bank, one of the Fed’s 12 regional banks. He said he plans to pursue his interests in public policy, civic work and private business after stepping down on Feb. 28.
Lockhart has been a supporter of Fed Chair Janet Yellen’s cautious approach to raising interest rates, though he is not one of the voting members of the Fed’s policy committee this year. In a speech Monday, Lockhart said he believed economic conditions justified “serious discussion” of a rate hike in September.
However, in a separate speech Monday, Fed Board member Lael Brainard urged “prudence” and indicated she was in no hurry to raise rates. Private economists believe December is the most likely time for the Fed to hike rates for the first time this year.
Thomas Fanning, the chairman of the Atlanta Fed’s board of directors and the president of Southern Company, will lead the committee that will conduct the search for Lockhart’s replacement. Marie Gooding, the Atlanta bank’s vice president, will serve as interim president if a successor is not found by Feb. 28.
Lockhart took over as president of the Atlanta Fed in March 2007 after serving on the faculty of Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service from 2003 to 2007. Before that, Lockhart had been a managing partner of Zephry Management, a private investment firm. Lockhart began his banking career at Citicorp, now Citigroup, where he held various international and domestic positions from 1971 to 1988.
Fed Up, a coalition of activist groups that is trying to change how the Fed’s regional banks operate, is urging the central bank to expand opportunities for minority groups on the boards of the Fed’s 12 regional banks and to open up the process for selecting the top officials at the regional banks.
“Eleven out of 12 regional bank presidents are white and there has never, in the over 100 year history of the Federal Reserve, been a black or Latino Fed president,” said Shawn Sebastian, field director for the Fed Up campaign. “We think that it is past time for that to change and Atlanta is a perfect place to start.”
Sebastian said the Fed Up campaign, a coalition of labor unions and community activists, would be pushing for the Atlanta bank’s search committee to publicly disclose the candidates it has under consideration and ensure that there are opportunities for the public to participate in the process.
The Atlanta Fed district covers Georgia, Alabama, Florida and portions of Louisiana, Mississippi and Tennessee.