01 March 2010

Fed Vice-Chairman Kohn to Retire

I do not think this is anything like a 'principled resignation' from the Fed which we had seen when Larry Meyer and Jerry Jordan resigned. Meyer was a noted inflation hawk, and Jordan was probably the closest thing to an Austrian economist at the Fed. These resignations occurred in 2002, just before Greenspan began to spear-head the monetary reflation that led to the housing bubble and this latest financial crisis.

After all, Don Kohn has been at the Fed since 1970, although he only joined the Board of Governors in 2002. He is certainly in line for retirement.

As you may recall, Mr. Jordan has occasionally raised his voice in outrage at some of the dicier Fed dealings since then, such as the trading in Goldman stock by the Chairman of the NY Fed, Turbo Timmy's boss, while they were in the process of providing them billions of dollars in public assistance.

By October 26, 2009, Mr. Friedman’s paper profits on the shady trade were $5.4 million, reported Bloomberg News. “It’s an outrage,” said Jerry Jordan, former president of the Cleveland Fed. “He needed to either resign from the Fed board or from Goldman and proceed to sell his stock.” Bloomberg News comments: “suspicions that the fix was in for Goldman Sachs have been fanned by the firm’s political connections.”Wall Street Bailout: History's Largest Theft? - Oct. 28, 2009
Don Kohn has always struck me as more of a 'company man,' coming from the Alan Blinder school of Public Service:
"The last duty of a central banker is to tell the truth to the public."
He tended to pander to Wall Street, and was among the first to attempt to try and take moral hazard off the table as a consideration in bailing out the big banks. Citizen Kohn

It will be interesting to see what kind of a truthteller Mr. Obama will nominate to take his place. Christina Romer's name has been mentioned. Janet Yellen is being groomed for something. With Kohn's departure, Ben remains the only macro-economist, with the remainder of the Governors from the banking profession. This certainly seems to disqualify Mr. Geithner, who is neither economist nor commercial banker, but a kind of bureaucrat.

If it is Timmy, I may not be able to hold down solid food for a few days. I wonder if Larry Summers would take second place. If so, watch your back Ben. If not any of them, then a Chicago crony would be likely. Rahm? Yikes!

A more obscure economist perhaps? Obama is said to be looking for an inflation 'dove.' Brad DeLong has previously stated on his blog that Alan Greenspan never made a policy decision which which he disagreed. Krugman carries more weight, and is also a dove, and certainly his own man.

It is a shame that Robert Reich has no place in this Democratic Administration. He would have been a better Treasury Secretary than Timmy, but again, perhaps less pliable for the banks. My own choice for Governor at least would be a maverick like Janet Tavakoli or Yves Smith. It would be nice to have someone on the board who understands the more innovative aspects of the financial markets from a practical perspective. And of course the meetings would probably be much more interesting given their willingness and ability to ask the right questions.

And we can only wonder what new financial patent medicines wrapped in black boxes that Zimbabwe Ben may have in his cabinet of curiousities.

Fed Vice Chairman Kohn to leave in late June
By Mark Felsenthal
March 1, 2010

WASHINGTON, March 1 (Reuters) - Federal Reserve Vice Chairman Donald Kohn, a 40-year veteran of the U.S. central bank, will step down in late June, giving President Barack Obama a chance to reshape the institution.

In a letter to Obama released on Monday, Kohn, who has served as the Fed's No. 2 since June 2006, said he will depart when his current term as vice chairman expires on June 23.

"The Federal Reserve and the country owe a tremendous debt of gratitude to Don Kohn for his invaluable contributions over 40 years of public service," Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke said in a statement.

Kohn, 67, began his career at the Kansas City Federal Reserve Bank in 1970 and rose through the ranks to become one of the more influential vice chairmen in the central bank's history.

He has served on the Fed's Board of Governors since August 2002.

His departure would leave three seats vacant on the normally seven-person Fed board in Washington, giving Obama broad latitude to shape the Fed at a time lawmakers are considering lessening its power after the most damaging financial crisis in generations.

Members of the Fed board are nominated by the president, but subject to confirmation by the U.S. Senate.

Among possible replacements, the president may be considering Christina Romer, a prominent economist who currently heads the White House Council of Economic Advisers.

Another possibility might be Fed Governor Daniel Tarullo, a lawyer and expert on banking regulation appointed by Obama, who could shepherd the bank into a greater focus on financial oversight and consumer protections. (Editing by Chizu Nomiyama)