The FDIC's Boss: Sheila Bair, America's Passbook Protector

The job of the FDIC's Sheila Bair is a bear: balancing the rights of small depositors against those of the megabanks that Washington hopes will kick-start the economy

Photograph by David Burnett / Contact for TIME

If the widely trusted but mostly mysterious agency known as the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation has ever had a public face, it was probably that of Lydia Lobsiger, the happy and relieved East Peoria, Ill., widow who in 1934 was the first American to get her little pile of savings back from the feds after a terrifying run on her local Fon du Lac State Bank. Now, almost 75 years later, the FDIC has been busy projecting a newer face, and it belongs to Sheila Bair, a 54-year-old lawyer from Kansas.

As the U.S. banking system undergoes its most wrenching overhaul...

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