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Banco Santander Names Ex-FDIC Chairman Bair to Board

Banco Santander SA hired Sheila Bair, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. chairman from 2006 to 2011, to join the board at Spain’s biggest bank.

Bair replaces Lord Terence Burns as an independent director on the 15-person board, the Santander-based company said today in a regulatory filing in Madrid. Burns resigned Jan. 8.

Bair, 59, has been among people who have called for breaking up the biggest financial firms and imposing tougher safety standards. At Santander, she will advise a bank with the richest market value of any euro-zone lender and an asset base as big as the Spanish economy.

“I respect the way Santander successfully navigated through the financial crisis by sticking to a more traditional banking business model,” Bair said in an e-mail. She’ll help Santander strengthen risk management, she said.

In her 2012 book “Bull by the Horns,” Bair praised that model as one that makes sense in how global banks should run their business, giving Santander and HSBC Holdings Plc as examples. She also criticized government peers who looked forward to lucrative jobs at banks they regulated, calling for an end to the “revolving door.”

Santander has 1.2 trillion euros ($1.64 trillion) of assets and runs a unit that collects deposits and makes loans in the U.S. It’s regulated by the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency and the Federal Reserve, while deposits are insured by the FDIC, as they are at all U.S. banks.

“As a persistent critic of the pernicious revolving door, I am not worried about Sheila Bair being a lapdog for the CEO, who’d better be ready for a watchdog in the board room,” said Dennis Kelleher, president of Better Markets Inc., an advocacy group based in Washington that has pushed for tougher financial regulations.

Santander values Bair’s experience and knowledge of financial markets in the U.S. where the company runs retail banking and auto-loan businesses, according to a statement. Shareholders must ratify Bair’s appointment at their next meeting, the firm said.

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