Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond President Jeffrey Lacker plans to retire Oct. 1, marking the exit of one of the U.S. central bank's most steadfast inflation fighters at a time when the Fed is weighing how quickly to raise interest rates.
The Richmond Fed said Tuesday that a committee had been formed to find a successor for Lacker, who has led the regional Fed bank since 2004, and has engaged professional services firm Heidrick & Struggles to conduct the search. The head of the Richmond Fed will be a voting member of the policy-setting Federal Open Market Committee in 2018.
Lacker, 61, was a voice of restraint in the use of monetary policy and the central bank's balance sheet as the Fed used extraordinary powers to combat the financial crisis, the worst recession since the Great Depression as well as a sluggish recovery.
"He was consistent in terms of wanting a narrow Fed that stuck to the business of insuring price stability because that would be the Fed's best contribution to society," said Vincent Reinhart, chief economist at Standish Mellon Asset Management Co. LLC in Boston. "Jeff Lacker kept the faith."
Lacker dissented frequently in favor of tighter policy when he was a voter on the FOMC, including at every meeting in 2012. During the financial crisis he warned about channeling credit to specific sectors of the economy, inflation risks and government rescues of troubled banks.
He will depart three years ahead of his mandatory retirement age of 65. Lacker hasn't lined up another job, according to Richmond Fed spokeswoman Laura Fortunato. "He does want to get back to writing and research," she said.
The search for his successor, which gets under way as the Atlanta Fed is undertaking its own campaign to replace its president Dennis Lockhart, who retires Feb. 28, will be conducted nationally to "identify a broad, diverse and highly qualified candidate pool for this leadership role," the Richmond Fed said in a statement on its website.
The Fed is under pressure to increase diversity among its leaders after criticism that it is dominated by white men. Janet Yellen, the first woman to chair the central bank, has said she'd like to see more diversity, though the Richmond Fed's own board of directors will make the ultimate selection.
"My guess is that the Richmond Fed will find a hawk," said Mark Vitner, a senior economist at Wells Fargo Securities LLC in Charlotte, North Carolina. "Part of this reflects the sentiment of businesses, residents and bankers located in this part of the country, who tend to take a more cautious view on what monetary policy can and cannot do," he said.