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Paul A. Volcker was, up until 2011, an economic advisor to President Barack Obama, heading the President’s Economic Recovery Advisory Board. During the financial crisis of 2008-2010, Volcker has been extremely critical of banks, saying that their response to the financial crisis has been inadequate, and that more regulation of banks is called for. Specifically Volcker has called for a breakup of the nation’s largest banks and a reimplementation of many aspects of the Glass-Steagall Act which prevented commercial banks from engaging in investment banking activities such as trading securities.
Mr. Volcker is currently also serving as director of, or consultant to, a number of corporations and non-profit organizations.
Mr. Volcker was Chairman of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System from August 1979 to August 1987, and is credited with the leading role in ending a period of high and rising inflation and restoring a base for sustained growth. Initially appointed to that position by President Carter for a four-year term, he was reappointed in 1983 by President Reagan. Upon completion of his second term as Chairman, Mr. Volcker returned to private life, joining as Chairman of the firm of James D. Wolfensohn Inc., a company concentrating on the provision of investment banking services to a limited number of large domestic and international organizations. He retired as Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Wolfensohn & Co., Inc. upon the merger of that firm in 1996 with the Bankers Trust Company.
In the course of his career, Mr. Volcker worked in the Federal Government for almost 30 years, serving in office under five presidents — John F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson, Richard M. Nixon, Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan. Immediately before becoming Chairman of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System in 1979, Mr. Volcker spent more than four years as President of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, the principal operating arm of the System.
Earlier, Mr. Volcker had two tours of duty as an official of the U.S. Treasury, serving as Under Secretary for Monetary Affairs from 1969 to 1974. In that position he was responsible for developing and implementing Treasury debt management and Federal credit policies. On behalf of the United States, he conducted international monetary negotiations during the transition from the Bretton Woods fixed exchange rate system to the more flexible system of floating rates that has prevailed since the early 1970’s. In the area of domestic finance, among other initiatives, Mr. Volcker initiated the auctioning of Treasury bonds, an approach that has now become customary not only in the United States but in many other countries.
Upon leaving Washington in 1987, he became Frederick H. Schultz Professor of International Economic Policy at Princeton University (now Emeritus). Mr. Volcker also served as volunteer chairman of a newly formed, privately sponsored Commission on the Public Service. The Commission studied problems arising in attracting, motivating, and retaining the quality of people necessary for Government to function effectively. Both of those activities reflected Mr. Volcker’s continuing interest in improving the professionalism and effectiveness of public service. Recently, Mr. Volcker has assumed chairmanship of the newly established Board of Trustees of the International Accounting Standards Committee, overseeing a renewed effort to develop consistent, high-quality accounting standards acceptable in all countries.
Mr. Volcker was born in 1927 in Cape May, New Jersey, grew up in that state and spent much of his early adult life there. He earned his B.A. at Princeton University in 1949 and an M.A. in political economy and government at the Harvard University Graduate School of Public Administration in 1951. He attended the London School of Economics as a post-graduate student in 1951-52. Among his honorary degrees are those from his three Alma Maters: Princeton, Harvard, and London University. In 1998-1999, Mr. Volcker was honored by his appointment as the first Henry Kaufman Visiting Professor at the Stern School of Business at New York University.
Mr. Paul Volcker is Chairman of International House, and Co-chairman of the Financial Services Volunteer Corps. He is also associated as a Trustee or member of the Board of Directors with the American Assembly, the American Council on Germany, the Japan Society , the Group of Thirty, and the Institute for International Economics. Mr. Volcker, a former chairman of the Trilateral Commission, also serves on a number of other public and private advisory boards.