Who Is Jerome Powell, Trump’s Pick to Replace Janet Yellen As Fed Chair?
President Donald Trump is expected to unveil his much anticipated tax plan as well as his pick for the Federal Reserve chair on Thursday.
The Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday, citing anonymous sources, that White House officials had notified Federal Reserve governor Jerome Powell that he was Trump’s pick to lead the Fed — beating out names including Stanford university economist John Taylor and former Fed governor Kevin Warsh.
If he accepts the job, Powell would also beat out now Fed Chair Janet Yellen for the role, whose four year-term ends in February.
Who is Jerome Powell?
A 64-year old Fed Governor, Powell currently oversees Wall Street bank regulations at the central bank.
But unlike Janet Yellen and the two Fed Chairs that preceded her, Powell does not hold a Ph.D nor is he an economist. Instead, he started as a lawyer after graduating with a J.D. from Georgetown University in 1979. He later worked at the Treasury Department in the early 90s, overseeing the Salomon Brothers investigation, looking into a trader who submitted false bids for treasury bonds. Powell recently said that the incident “still gives me nightmares.”
Between 1997 and 2005. Powell worked at the private equity firm Carlyle Group. He would later become a visiting scholar at the Bipartisan Policy Center. Then in 2012, he was appointed as a member of the Federal Reserve Board by President Barack Obama.
Why choose him?
Trump has reason to love the low-interest rate environment Yellen has presided over. After all, the politician began in real estate development, an industry that thrives in such an atmosphere. But more pertinently, Trump has often touted the stock market’s multiple all-time highs since his election as proof of his presidential prowess. And when interest rates rise, as he himself pointed out himself during the election cycle, stock markets fall.
So why bother switching Yellen for Powell at all?
For starters, Powell is considered by many to be close to a continuation of the Yellen era. He has broadly backed Yellen era monetary policies. The current chair has been termed “dovish” for her commitment to lower interest rates. Powell is expected to raise interest rates faster than Yellen, though the acceleration would be far from extreme.
“If the economy performs about as expected, I would view it as appropriate to continue to gradually raise rates,” Powell said in June at the Economic Club of New York. “I would also see it as appropriate to begin the process of reducing the size of the balance sheet later this year.”
Meanwhile, Trump has also tended to favor those with business backgrounds — both Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and and National Economic Council Chair Gary Cohn are Goldman Sachs alumni. Notably, Powell’s curriculum vitae is rooted in corporate America. Yellen hails from academia.
Perhaps its because of these disparate experiences that Yellen has been more vocal about defending Dodd-Frank regulations while Powell has called some parts of Dodd-Frank “unnecessarily burdensome.” Considering that Trump has sought to make sweeping changes to the act in the past, Powell’s inclination to rewrite the so-called Volcker Rule in favor of a softer version would put him slightly closer to the current administration’s preferences.
“The big difference is on regulatory policy; [Powell] is more inclined to reduce regulations, while she is more aggressive,” Greg Valliere at Horizon Investments told Fortune.
How much is he worth?
Powell is also in another way a typical Trump nominee. In line with Trump’s gilded cabinet, Powell is among the wealthiest of Fed chairs, with assets of $19.4 million to $55 million, according to financial disclosure report in June from the Office of Government Ethics. In comparison, Yellen disclosed assets worth between $5.1 million to $16.6 million a year earlier.
But he is not the absolute wealthiest member of the Federal Reserve board currently. That honor goes to Randal Quarles, another Carlyle alumnus, who was nominated by Trump to be the Wall Street watchdog earlier this year. In his financial disclosures, Quarles revealed a net worth between $24.7 million to $125 million, assuming he has divested fully of his Wells Fargo stake.
And even Quarles may soon be eclipsed. If Yellen leaves the Fed after her term as chair is over, as is widely expected, Trump will have to four seats to fill.
It’s not certain how much Powell will make if he does take the job and join February 2018, though he will likely be looking at a modest raise. In 2017, the Federal Reserve Board Chair is set to take home a total of $199,700. In his current position, Powell makes about $179,700 annually.