Who wants to be a millionaire? Likely next Fed chair already is

WASHINGTON Tue Aug 27, 2013 6:31pm EDT

Federal Reserve Vice Chair Janet Yellen addresses the 29th National Association for Business Economics Policy Conference in Washington March 4, 2013. REUTERS/Gary Cameron

Federal Reserve Vice Chair Janet Yellen addresses the 29th National Association for Business Economics Policy Conference in Washington March 4, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Gary Cameron

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Lawrence Summers may be a poster-child for the lucrative revolving door between Wall Street and Washington. But Federal Reserve Vice Chair Janet Yellen, his chief opponent in the tight race to replace Ben Bernanke at the helm of the U.S. central bank, is not exactly struggling financially.

Yellen, a former university professor who until recently was seen as a favorite to take the top spot at the Fed when Bernanke's second term ends early next year, holds assets worth between $3.8 million and $11.1 million, according to 2012 disclosure forms released on Tuesday. Including the holdings of her husband, a Nobel-prize-winning economist, she owns between $4.8 million and $13.2 million worth of assets.

That is well short of the $7.2 million to $24.5 million range reported by Summers, a former Treasury secretary under Bill Clinton and ex-adviser to President Barack Obama, in his most recent government disclosure form covering 2010.

Yet given that both are multi-millionaires, the gap is hardly large enough to become a sticking point in what has become an unusually contentious and public campaign for the central bank's leadership. Both Yellen and Summers are considerably wealthier than Bernanke, who held between $1.1 million and $2.3 million in assets last year.

Critics of Summers say his work at Citigroup and hedge fund D.E. Shaw over the years make him too close to the financial industry the Fed is supposed to oversee. Supporters, however, argue that his understanding of Wall Street could prove invaluable in a crisis.

Summers opponents also criticize him for his role in the financial deregulation of the 1990s that many now blame for creating the financial crisis of 2007-2009.

Both Summers and Yellen are considered top-notch economists. At the Fed, Yellen has been very active in developing and honing the central bank's unconventional policy tools and communications policy. Her detractors see her as too "dovish" on monetary policy, worrying she may be too soft about fighting inflation because of a strong desire to bring down unemployment.

Yellen, who reported owning a stamp collection worth between $15,000 to $50,000, would become the first woman to ever lead one of the world's major central banks if nominated by President Barack Obama and confirmed by the Senate.

Much of Yellen's wealth was invested in stocks, including Conoco Phillips and Raytheon, as well as a number of different retirement funds.

A RANGE OF VIEWS, AND INCOMES

Just as the Fed is home to a wide range of policy views, it is also an institution with a large gap in incomes. Folks like Governor Jerome Powell, a private equity magnate at The Carlyle Group, and Dallas Fed President Richard Fisher, a former hedge fund manager, are far richer than their more academic peers.

Powell, by far the richest among his colleagues, has between $32.1 million and $122.6 million in assets.

Fisher reported assets of at least $23.9 million but possibly much more. He had seven assets in the highest category of the disclosure form for regional Fed presidents, which is $1 million or more.

Those who tended to follow a more academic or research track in their careers were generally less well off than those with financial industry experience.

Jeffrey Lacker of the Richmond Fed reported assets of $50,000 to $300,000, while John Williams, of the San Francisco Fed, held assets between $4,000 and $200,000.

(Reporting by Pedro Nicolaci da Costa; editing by Andrew Hay)

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