Jerome Powell is chair of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System. He was nominated by President Trump in November of 2017 and took on the role on February 5, 2018. As chair of the federal reserve, his duties include promoting employment, keeping prices stable and holding moderate interest rates. He has also been a member of the Board of Governors since May 25, 2012 and will retain that role until January 31, 2028.
Powell was born in February 1953 in Washington, D.C. and attended Princeton University in 1975, where he earned his bachelor’s degree in politics. In 1979, Powell earned a law degree from Georgetown University, where he was also editor-in-chief of the Georgetown Law Review.
From 1997-2005, Powell was a partner at The Carlyle Group before he went on to work as a visiting scholar at the Bipartisan Policy Center in Washington, D.C., according to his biography. Powell is also a husband, father and author.
Here’s what you need to know about the chair of the Federal Reserve:
1. He Is Incredibly Wealthy
According to documents from the U.S. Office of Government Ethics, Powell’s net worth was at least $55 million in 2018 and could have been as high as $100 million.
Powell made most of his money as a partner with The Carlyle Group. The Washington, D.C.-based investment firm, which was founded in 1987, says it holds about $195 billion in assets. Powell took a symbolic salary of $1 per year while at the think tank Bipartisan Policy Center and Fortune magazine reported that he received a $179,700 salary while he was a member of the Federal Reserve Board.
2. His Wife Is An Accomplished Producer/Writer
Powell is married to Elissa Leonard, a producer/writer and Harvard University graduate.
The two have been married since 1985 and live in Chevy Chase Village, Maryland. Leonard was the vice-chair of the Chevy Chase Village’s board of managers and she is on the Board of Directors of the Chevy Chase Historical Society and on the Board of Trustees of Levine Music, according to her biography.
Leonard is also a filmmaker, during which she won several awards. She was a writer and producer for a show called Innovation and is an executive producer on Bruce Beresford’s film “Ladies In Black.” She also wrote and was the executive producer of the romantic drama, Sally Pacholok.
Leonard and Powell have three adult children together: two daughters, Lucy and Susie and one son, Samuel.
3. He Has Had A Tenuous Relationship with President Trump
During trade negotiations with China, Trump often expressed disappointment with Powell’s cautious approach to cutting interest rates, which would boost the economy by potentially lowering interest rates for all forms of borrowing throughout the country
For example, after Powell made cautious cuts to interest rates in September of 2019, Trump released a tweet calling him a terrible communicator and saying he had “no guts.”
Trump has also called Powell and others on the Federal Reserve Board “boneheads” for not reducing interest rates to zero, the Washington Post reported.
During the pandemic, their relationship has remained just as mercurial.
On March 14, Trump said that he was “not happy” with the Fed during a news conference. He also said that he could remove Powell and “put him in a regular position and put somebody else in charge,” but he also said that he hadn’t decided what to do yet. According to reporting from the New York Times, Trump said that Powell’s cautious approach would “turn me into Hoover,” a reference to the man who was president during the Great Depression.
However, Trump has also praised Powell during the pandemic, according to reporting from Axios, when he said, “I am happy with [Powell]. … I really think he’s caught up. He’s really stepped up over the last week. I called him today and I said, ‘Jerome, good job.’”
According to the Washington Post, Trump can only fire Powell for cause, which does not typically include policy differences.
For his part, Powell has said he wants to maintain the independence of the Fed from politics.
“I leave you with this statement from Marriner, inscribed on a plaque in the Eccles Building: ‘The management of the central bank must be absolutely free from the dangers of control by politics and by private interests, singly or combined,’” Powell said, according to Politico.
4. His Outlook on the Economy Has Gotten Increasingly Worse
As the pandemic has gotten increasingly worse, Powell’s outlook on the economy has followed.
In February, Powell released a brief statement acknowledging that “the coronavirus poses evolving risks to economic activity.”
In a March interview with NBC, Powell said the economy was in a recession, but could recover quickly. “I would point to the difference between this and a normal recession,” he said. “There is nothing fundamentally wrong with our economy. Quite the contrary. We are starting from a very strong position.”
By May, he gave a speech which described the state of the economy as severely downturned:
Since the pandemic arrived in force just two months ago, more than 20 million people have lost their jobs … Among people who were working in February, almost 40 percent of those in households making less than $40,000 a year had lost a job in March. This reversal of economic fortune has caused a level of pain that is hard to capture in words, as lives are upended amid great uncertainty about the future.
However, he also described steps he was taking to mitigate the difficulties brought on by the pandemic. Along with lowered interest rates, he said the Fed had also loosened regulations for bankers, worked with foreign banks and provided nearly $3 trillion in support to households, businesses and local governments.
5. Powell Said People Shouldn’t Bet Against the U.S. Economy
In a May 17 interview with 60 Minutes, Powell said that the economy may not fully recover until a vaccine is created, and even then, it could take years if the federal government does not continue providing households and business support and if the health care crisis is not addressed.
“The thing that matters more than anything else is the medical metrics, frankly, it’s the spread of the virus,” he said. “The real-time economic data that we’re seeing is just a function of how successful the social distancing measures are. The data we’ll see for the quarter at the end of June is going to be very, very bad.”
Powell made his predictions at a time when the Washington Post has said more than 35 million people have filed for unemployment.
Powell said the economy would likely shrink 30% and unemployment could reach around 20-25%, but he also told 60 Minutes that it would be a “reasonable expectation” that the economy could pick up in the second half of the year.
People shouldn’t “bet against the American economy,” he said.