Jerome Powell

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Jerome Powell
Jerome H. Powell.jpg
Official portrait, 2012
16th Chair of the Federal Reserve
Assumed office
February 5, 2018
PresidentDonald Trump
Joe Biden
DeputyRichard Clarida
Preceded byJanet Yellen
Member of the Federal Reserve Board of Governors
Assumed office
May 25, 2012
PresidentBarack Obama
Donald Trump
Joe Biden
Preceded byFrederic Mishkin
Under Secretary of the Treasury for Domestic Finance
In office
PresidentGeorge H. W. Bush
Preceded byRobert R. Glauber
Succeeded byFrank N. Newman
Personal details
Jerome Hayden Powell

(1953-02-04) February 4, 1953 (age 67)
Washington, D.C., U.S.
Political partyRepublican[1]
Elissa Leonard
(m. 1985)
EducationPrinceton University (BA)
Georgetown University (JD)
Net worth$55 million[2][3]

Jerome Hayden "Jay" Powell (born February 4, 1953) is the 16th chair of the Federal Reserve, serving in that office since February 2018. He was nominated to the Board of the Federal Reserve in 2012 by President Barack Obama, and subsequently nominated to the chair of the Fed by President Donald Trump, and confirmed in each case by the United States Senate.[4][5] During his chairmanship, he was both criticized and praised by Trump.[6]

As Fed chair, rather than having strong monetary views, Powell was seen as a consensus-builder and problem-solver, who kept close contact with Capitol Hill.[7] Powell won bipartisan praise for the actions taken by the Fed in early 2020 to combat the financial effects of the COVID‑19 pandemic.[8] As Powell continued to apply high levels of monetary stimulus to further raise asset prices and support growth, the resulting disconnect between asset prices and the economy became controversial,[9][10][11] both for the simultaneous bubbles recorded in most asset classes,[12][13][14] and the historic widening of wealth inequality.[15][16][17] By the end of 2020, Powell had created the loosest monetary conditions ever recorded,[18][19][20] and the Financial Times warned that the resulting wealth inequality from Powell's K-shaped recovery could lead to political and social instability,[21] and that credit markets had a concerning "jenga-like structure".[22]

So dominant,[20][23] and distorting,[24][25] were Powell's actions on asset prices – despite a pandemic, divided Congress, weak economy, low buybacks, and trade wars – that by the end of 2020, Bloomberg called Powell, "Wall Street's Head of State",[26] and that his actions were "exuberantly asymmetric".[9] 2020 was one of the most profitable years in Wall Street history,[27][28] and earned Powell the title of Wall Street's Dr. Feelgood.[29][30] Time said the scale and manner of Powell's actions had "changed the Fed forever",[24] and shared concerns that he had conditioned Wall Street to unsustainable levels of monetary stimulus to artificially support high asset prices,[10] likened to a stronger Greenspan put,[9][11] and also termed the Everything Bubble.[31][25][24] The Wall Street Journal called Powell's defence of the Fed model to justify valuations associated with peaks of past bubbles,[32] as an attempt to "rewrite the laws of investing".[33]

Powell earned a degree in politics from Princeton University in 1975 and a Juris Doctor from Georgetown University Law Center in 1979.[7] He moved to investment banking in 1984, and worked for several financial institutions, including as a partner of The Carlyle Group.[7] In 1992, Powell briefly served as Under Secretary of the Treasury for Domestic Finance under President George H. W. Bush. He was a visiting scholar at the Bipartisan Policy Center from 2010 to 2012.[7]

Early life[edit]

Powell was born on February 4, 1953, in Washington, D.C., as one of six children to Patricia (née Hayden; 1926–2010)[34] and Jerome Powell (1921–2007),[35][36] a lawyer in private practice.[37] His maternal grandfather, James J. Hayden, was Dean of the Columbus School of Law at Catholic University of America and later a lecturer at Georgetown Law School.[38] He has five siblings: Susan, Matthew, Tia, Libby, and Monica.[39]

In 1972, Powell graduated from Georgetown Preparatory School, a Jesuit university-preparatory school. He received a Bachelor of Arts in politics from Princeton University in 1975, where his senior thesis was titled "South Africa: Forces for Change."[40] In 1975–76, he spent a year as a legislative assistant to Pennsylvania Senator Richard Schweiker (R).[41][42]

Powell earned a Juris Doctor degree from Georgetown University Law Center in 1979, where he was editor-in-chief of the Georgetown Law Journal.[43]


Legal and investment banking (1979–2012)[edit]

In 1979, Powell moved to New York City and became a clerk to Judge Ellsworth Van Graafeiland of the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. From 1981 to 1983, Powell was a lawyer with Davis Polk & Wardwell, and from 1983 to 1984, he worked at the firm of Werbel & McMillen.[42]

From 1984 to 1990, Powell worked at Dillon, Read & Co., an investment bank, where he concentrated on financing, merchant banking, and mergers and acquisitions, rising to the position of vice president.[42][44]

Between 1990 and 1993, Powell worked in the United States Department of the Treasury, at which time Nicholas F. Brady, the former chairman of Dillon, Read & Co., was the United States Secretary of the Treasury. In 1992, Powell became the Under Secretary of the Treasury for Domestic Finance after being nominated by George H. W. Bush.[42][44][41] During his stint at the Treasury, Powell oversaw the investigation and sanctioning of Salomon Brothers after one of its traders submitted false bids for a United States Treasury security.[45] Powell was also involved in the negotiations that made Warren Buffett the chairman of Salomon.[46]

In 1993, Powell began working as a managing director for Bankers Trust, but he quit in 1995 after the bank got into trouble when several customers suffered large losses due to derivatives. He then went back to work for Dillon, Read & Co.[44] From 1997 to 2005, Powell was a partner at The Carlyle Group, where he founded and led the Industrial Group within the Carlyle U.S. Buyout Fund.[43][47] After leaving Carlyle, Powell founded Severn Capital Partners, a private investment firm focused on specialty finance and opportunistic investments in the industrial sector.[48] In 2008, Powell became a managing partner of the Global Environment Fund, a private equity and venture capital firm that invests in sustainable energy.[48]

Between 2010 and 2012, Powell was a visiting scholar at the Bipartisan Policy Center, a think tank in Washington, D.C., where he worked on getting Congress to raise the United States debt ceiling during the United States debt-ceiling crisis of 2011. Powell presented the implications to the economy and interest rates of a default or a delay in raising the debt ceiling.[47] He worked for a salary of $1 per year.[2]

Federal Reserve Board of Governors (2012–)[edit]

Powell speaks in 2015

In December 2011, along with Jeremy C. Stein, Powell was nominated to the Federal Reserve Board of Governors by President Barack Obama. The nomination included two people to help garner bipartisan support for both nominees since Stein's nomination had previously been filibustered. Powell's nomination was the first time that a president nominated a member of the opposition party for such a position since 1988.[1] He took office on May 25, 2012, to fill the unexpired term of Frederic Mishkin, who resigned. In January 2014, he was nominated for another term, and, in June 2014, he was confirmed by the United States Senate in a 67–24 vote for a 14-year term ending January 31, 2028.[49]

In 2013, Powell made a speech regarding financial regulation and ending "too big to fail".[50] In April 2017, he took over oversight of the "too big to fail" banks.[51]

Chair of the Federal Reserve (2018–)[edit]


Donald J. Trump nominates Powell

On 2 November 2017, President Trump nominated Powell to serve as the chair of the Federal Reserve.[52] On December 5 2017, the Senate Banking Committee approved Powell's nomination to be Chair in a 22–1 vote, with Senator Elizabeth Warren casting the lone dissenting vote.[53] His nomination was confirmed by the Senate on January 23, 2018 by an 84–13 vote.[54] Powell assumed office as chair on February 5, 2018.[55]

Powell sworn in as chair in 2018

In Q1 2018, one of Powells first actions was to continue to raise US interest rates, as a response to the increasing strength of the US economy.[55][56] Trump subsequently complained about the Fed raising interest rates,[57] and in 2018 said in an interview with The Wall Street Journal that he "maybe" regretted nominating Powell, complaining that the Fed chairman "almost looks like he's happy raising interest rates."[58] Powell has described the Fed's role as nonpartisan and apolitical.[59]

In 2018, for the first time since the 2008 financial crisis, Powell reduced the size of the Fed's balance in a process called quantitative tightening, planning to reduce it from US$4.5 trillion to US$2.5–3 trillion in 4 years.[60][61] Powell called the monthly reduction of US$50 billion as being "on automatic pilot", however, by end of 2018 global asset prices collapsed;[62] Powell abandoned quantitative tightening in Q1 2019, leading to a recovery in global asset prices.[62][63]

Powell's actions drew negative comments from Trump who said in June 2019: "Here's a guy, nobody ever heard of him before. And now, I made him and he wants to show how tough he is ... He's not doing a good job." Trump called the interest rate increase and quantitative tightening "insane".[64] In July 2019, Powell said he would not stand down if Trump attempted to remove him,[65] noting it was Congress that has oversight of the Fed.[66] In August 2019, Trump called Powell an "enemy",[67] "equivalent to or worse than" China's leader Xi Jinping,[68] and that he had "an horrendous lack of vision",[69] and "I disagree with him entirely".[70]

In Q3 2019, as asset prices waned, Powell announced the Fed would return to expanding its balance sheet, which led to a global rally in assets in Q4 2020, and pushed valuations to their highest levels since 1999–2000.[71] Powell said the Fed's actions were not quantitative easing, but some dubbed them as being QE4.[72] Powell's expansion utilized an indirect form of quantitative easing, which printed new funds (per direct quantitative easing), but then lent them to US investment banks who made the asset purchases (as opposed to the Fed purchasing assets); it is known as a "repo trade", and was associated with the "Greenspan put".[73][31][74][75]


In Q1 2020, Powell launched an unprecedented series of actions to counter the financial market impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, which included a dramatic expansion of the Fed's balance sheet and introduction of new tools, including the direct purchase of corporate bonds, and direct lending programs.[24][76] Powell emphasized monetary policy alone without an equivalent fiscal policy response from Congress would widen income inequality.[77] Powell's actions earned him bi-partisan praise,[78][8] including from Trump, who told Fox News that he was "very happy with his performance" and that "over the last period of six months, he's really stepped up to the plate".[6]

During Q2 and Q3 2020, Powell kept using tools to further amplify asset prices, despite concerns US asset prices were in a bubble,[79] and that Powell's actions had driven wealth inequality to historic levels.[80][17] Powell defended his actions saying: "I don't know that the connection between asset purchases and financial stability is a particularly tight one",[79] and that he wasn't worried that the Fed's actions were creating asset bubbles.[81] In July 2020, CNBC host Jim Cramer said, "I'm sick and tired of hearing that we're in a bubble, that Powell's overinflating the price of stocks by printing money to keep the economy moving".[82] The Washington Post called the Fed "addicted to propping up markets, even when there is no need".[10] In August 2020, investors Leon Cooperman and Seth Klarman warned of a dangerous "speculative bubble",[83] with market psychology "unhinged from market fundamentals".[84][85] In October, David Einhorn called the peak of a second dot-com bubble.[86]

In November 2020, as markets reached record valuations – despite a weak economy, divided Congress, and trade wars – Bloomberg called Powell "Wall Street's Head of State", as a reflection of how dominant Powell's actions were on asset prices, and how profitable his actions were for Wall Street.[26] On 19 November 2020, Treasury secretary Steve Mnuchin got into an "unprecedented spat" with Powell over the return of unused crisis funds, to which Powell relented.[87] In December 2020, Powell defended high asset prices by invoking the controversial Fed model, saying: "Admittedly P/Es are high but that's maybe not as relevant in a world where we think the 10-year Treasury is going to be lower than it's been historically from a return perspective".[32] The author of the Fed model, Dr. Edward Yardeni, said Powell's actions could form the greatest financial bubble in history,[88] while the Wall Street Journal described Powell's comparison as an attempt to "rewrite the laws of investing".[33]

In January 2021, investor Jeremy Grantham said markets were in an "epic bubble",[89] writing, "All three of Powell's predecessors claimed that the asset prices they helped inflate in turn aided the economy through the wealth effect", before eventually collapsing.[90][91] In reviewing 2020, BNN Bloomberg noted Powell showed "complete dominance over financial markets", despite the challenges of the year.[23] Former IMF deputy director, Desmond Lachman, said that Powell's monetary policy had created "the mother of all bubbles in the world's financial markets".[14] The Wall Street Journal wrote that Powell was comfortable maintaining USD 120 billion of monthly asset purchases (i.e. direct quantitative easing), and did not see any risk from asset bubbles.[92] In a January 2021 interview with Neue Zürcher Zeitung, Mohamed El-Erian said, "you have such an enormous disconnect between fundamentals and valuations", and that the record highs in assets were due to the actions of the Fed and the ECB, clarifying "That is the reason why we’ve seen prices going from one record high to another despite completely changing narratives. Forget about the «great reopening», the «Trump trade» and all this other stuff".[20] The Financial Times capital markets editor described Powell's January 2021 decision to keep buying assets in spite of bubble valuations, as creating a "jenga-like structure" in credit markets.[22]

Economic philosophy[edit]

Monetary policy[edit]

On joining the Fed, Powell was not considered a deep expert in macroeconomics or monetary policy; and rather than having strong economic views, Powell was seen as a consensus builder, and a rational fact-based problem solver, who was prepared to visit Capitol Hill frequently to communicate and listen to all views on the economy.[7] The Bloomberg Intelligence Fed Spectrometer rated Powell as neutral in terms of monetary views (i.e., neither a hawk nor a dove).[93] Powell was a skeptic of round 3 of quantitative easing (or QE3), initiated in 2012, although he eventually voted for it.[93]

Powell's first year as Fed chairman saw him raise rates and attempt to reduce the Fed's balance sheet (i.e. hawkish actions); in his second year, Powell restarted expanding the Fed's balance sheet (i.e. dovish actions), which led to an expansion of equity valuation multiples to levels not seen since 1999–2000.[31] Powell's actions to combat the financial effects of the pandemic saw him more overtly embrace asset bubbles as an acceptable consequence of his actions.[12][81][94] The simultaneous bubbles created by Powell in 2019–2020 in the bond markets, the equity markets, and laterally in the housing markets,[13] became known as the Everything Bubble;[14] Powell was criticised for using high levels of direct and indirect quantitative easing as valuations hit levels last seen at the peaks of previous bubbles.[31][25][79]

Powell's adoption of asset bubbles from 2019 onwards, resulted in levels of wealth inequality not seen in the United States since the 1920s.[16][15][17] Powell's use of asset bubbles was also attributed to the K-shaped recovery that emerged post the coronavirus pandemic, where the asset bubbles protected the wealthier segments of society from the financial effects of the pandemic,[95][96] at the expense of most other segments,[97][24] and particularly on the younger non-asset owning segments such as millennials.[98] In January 2021, Edward Luce of the Financial Times warned that Powell's use of asset bubbles, and their resultant widening of wealth inequality, could lead to political and social instability in the United States, saying: "The majority of people are suffering amid a Great Gatsby-style boom at the top".[21]

Powell's use of indirect quantitative easing (or "repo trades"), from the "Greenspan put",[73][98] created large profits for Wall Street investment banks.[29] In June 2020, Jim Grant called Powell's Wall Street Dr. Feelgood.[29][30] In a September 2020 testimony, Powell said: "Our actions were in no way an attempt to relieve pain on Wall Street".[99] By the end of 2020, Wall Street investment banks recorded their best year in history,[27][100] and Bloomberg called 2020, ".. a great year for Wall Street, but a bear market for Humans".[28] Mohamed A. El-Erian called Powell "a follower, not a leader", of markets.[11]

In August 2020, Bloomberg called Powell's policy "exuberantly asymmetric" (echoing Alan Greenspan's "irrational exuberance" quote from 1996),[9] and that the "Powell Put" had become more extreme than the "Greenspan Put".[9] Steven Pearlstein in the Washington Post said that Powell had "adopted a strategy that works like a one-way ratchet, providing a floor for stock and bond prices but never a ceiling", and that any attempt by Powell to abandon this strategy "will trigger a sharp sell-off by investors who have become addicted to monetary stimulus".[10]

By December 2020, Powell's monetary policy, measured by the Goldman Sachs US Financial Conditions Index (GSFCI), was the loosest in the history of the GSFCI (goes back to 1987), and had created simultaneous asset bubbles across most of the major asset classes in the United States:[18][19][14] For example, in equities,[101] in housing,[13][102] and in bonds.[103] Even asset classes such as cryptocurrencies saw dramatic increases in price during 2020, leading Powell to win the 2020, Forbes Person Of The Year In Crypto.[104]

"You can't lose in that market," he said, adding "it's like a slot machine" that always pays out. "I've not seen this in my career".

— CNBC host James Cramer (November 2020), after a prolonged period of the "Powell Put".[105]

Financial regulation[edit]

Powell testifies before the U.S. Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs in 2018

Powell "appears to largely support" the Dodd–Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, although he has stated that "we can do it more efficiently".[93] In an October 2017 speech, Powell stated that higher capital and liquidity requirements and stress tests have made the financial system safer and must be preserved. However, he also stated that the Volcker Rule should be re-written to exclude smaller banks.[93]

Housing finance reform[edit]

In a July 2017 speech, Powell said that in regard to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac the status quo is "unacceptable" and that the current situation "may feel comfortable, but it is also unsustainable". He warned that "the next few years may present our last best chance" to "address the ultimate status of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac" and avoid "repeating the mistakes of the past". Powell expressed concerns that, in the current situation, the government is responsible for mortgage defaults and that lending standards were too rigid, noting that these can be solved by encouraging "ample amounts of private capital to support housing finance activities".[106]

Personal life[edit]

Powell married Elissa Leonard in 1985.[37] They have three children[43] and live in Chevy Chase Village, Maryland, where Elissa is chair of the board of managers of the village.[107] In 2010, Powell was on the board of governors of Chevy Chase Club, a country club.[108]

Based on public filings, Powell's net worth is estimated to be as little as $4.7 million and as much as $55 million.[2][3][109] He is the wealthiest member of the Federal Reserve Board of Governors.[110]

Powell has served on the boards of charitable and educational institutions including DC Prep, a public charter school, the Bendheim Center for Finance at Princeton University, and The Nature Conservancy. He was also a founder of the Center City Consortium, a group of 16 parochial schools in the poorest areas of Washington, D.C.[47]

Powell is a registered Republican.[1]

See also[edit]


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External links[edit]



Political offices
Preceded by
Robert R. Glauber
Under Secretary of the Treasury for Domestic Finance
Succeeded by
Frank N. Newman
Government offices
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Frederic Mishkin
Member of the Federal Reserve Board of Governors
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Janet Yellen
Chair of the Federal Reserve
U.S. order of precedence (ceremonial)
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Louis DeJoy
as Postmaster General
Order of Precedence of the United States
Chairman of the Federal Reserve
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as Chair of the Council on Environmental Quality