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Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke’s current term runs until the end of January. (MANUEL BALCE CENETA/AP)
Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke’s current term runs until the end of January. (MANUEL BALCE CENETA/AP)

Hints of Bernanke’s departure add to Fed policy worries Add to ...

He also held senior posts in the Clinton Treasury and at the International Monetary Fund, and has long-standing contacts with the nation’s largest banks. However, some critics view those ties to Wall Street as an impediment and say he was not tough enough on the banks, which contributed to excessive risk-taking that ultimately led to the 2007-09 housing crisis.

Mr. Geithner had a difficult Senate confirmation as Treasury secretary in 2009 after it surfaced that he had failed to pay some taxes, and that issue might re-emerge if he is tapped for the Fed. Some lawmakers called for Mr. Geithner’s resignation early in his tenure at Treasury, but many Republicans later warmed to him, seeing him as an honest broker during tough budget talks.


Mr. Ferguson, 61, is chief executive officer of TIAA-CREF, which manages retirement funds for many U.S. schools and hospitals. A Harvard-educated economist and lawyer who was Fed vice-chair from 1999 to 2006, Mr. Ferguson was regarded within the Fed as a smart and thorough policy maker. His appointment would be historical: He would be the first African-American to chair the U.S. central bank.


Mr. Kohn, who retired as Fed vice-chair in 2010 after 40 years at the central bank, is a respected economist who would be viewed as a safe nominee if he could be persuaded to return to public office.

Before taking a Fed board seat, Mr. Kohn, 70, was a top staff lieutenant to then-chairman Alan Greenspan. He is now an external member of the Bank of England’s Financial Policy Committee, which sets broad guidelines for the British financial system, and a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, a Washington think tank.


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