DeMarco, a career civil servant and a holdover from the Bush administration, maintains one of the most contentious posts in financial regulation, where he has been in an acting capacity since August 2009.
His most important task as a regulator is to oversee the controversial housing giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, which were taken over by the government in a conservatorship during the 2008 financial crisis (before he was at the helm) and given $187 billion in taxpayer funds.
In his first term, President Obama let the position of agency director languish. When he finally chose a nominee, North Carolina Banking Commissioner Joseph Smith, Senate Republicans expressed opposition and Smith swiftly withdrew his nomination. This term, Obama has nominated Rep. Melvin Watt, D-N.C., but his path to confirmation is no more certain.
DeMarco remains in place and has not announced any plans to leave, despite becoming one of the top targets of liberal groups and some Democrats on Capitol Hill, who argue that he has not done enough to help underwater homeowners. These critics have called for his ouster.
The FHFA has overseen the turnover of senior management at Fannie and Freddie three times since 2008, and DeMarco has expressed frustration that the housing goliaths are overdue for reform. With Congress and the administration so far unwilling to expend the political capital necessary to bring this about, DeMarco has tried to get the ball rolling by initiating plans to create a simplified uniform mortgage security model that could be used by both Fannie and Freddie, or any future replacement mortgage entities, assuming reform finally occurs.
His goals are to ensure that Fannie and Freddie pay the government back while avoiding the kinds of risks that precipitated their problems; to further whittle down their market share; and to continue their foreclosure mitigation efforts.
"The biggest challenge is really sort of directing the agency and overseeing Fannie and Freddie in conservatorship during a period of uncertainty about what the post-conservatorship landscape looks like," he said. "Even [determining] what that means and trying to provide a transition bridge from where we've been to where we are going to end up."
DeMarco, 53, is from Virginia. He has a B.A. from the University of Notre Dame and an M.A. and Ph.D. from the University of Maryland.