Not long after she took charge in June 2006, Bair began sounding the alarm about the dangers posed by the explosive growth of subprime mortgages, which she feared would not only ravage neighborhoods when homeowners began to default — as they inevitably did — but also wreak havoc on the banking system. The F.D.I.C. was the only bank regulator in Washington to do so.
“Our job is to protect bank customers, not banks,” she told me.
Interviewing her could be an exercise in frustration. She was only too happy to talk about capital requirements, say, but even off the record she wouldn’t tread where most journalists, myself included, wanted her to go — into the boardrooms at Treasury and the Fed where decisions were hashed out.