Records reveal Yellen, Warren meeting

Sen. Elizabeth Warren placed a call to Janet Yellen eight months before she was nominated for chairwoman of the Federal Reserve, meeting records obtained by The Hill show.

The call from the Massachusetts Democrat was a rare point of contact between Yellen and lawmakers in the early half of 2013, and the two women later met on May 22. 

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Warren’s office did not respond to several requests for comment about the May meeting, and the Federal Reserve is unable to release details.

The visit with Warren stands out because, over the summer, the senator advocated for Yellen to be selected as Fed chairwoman after the current chairman, Ben Bernanke, steps down. The lobbying efforts of Warren and other liberal senators helped torpedo the potential nomination of Larry Summers, Yellen’s rival for the job.

Yellen’s talk with Warren is one of only three meetings with lawmakers recorded on her schedule from late 2010 — when she became the Fed’s vice chairwoman — through July 2013, the last month for which records are available.

She also met with Rep. David Schweikert (R-Ariz.) and Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) in mid-2011, records show.

The limited interaction with lawmakers stands in contrast to Bernanke.

Bernanke, whose term expires at the end of this year, fielded no fewer than 90 meetings and phone calls with lawmakers during the same time period, part of his regular outreach as head of the central bank.

Congressional aides downplayed Yellen’s lack of face time on Capitol Hill, calling it typical of deputies.

“The job of rubbing elbows and interacting with [members] all falls to the chair,” said a Democratic Senate aide. 

“When you’re the head of the agency, then it becomes your job to be a liaison to Congress,” the aide said. 

Both of the days that Yellen and Warren spoke, Bernanke had made a trip to Capitol Hill to speak before congressional panels. 

Before Warren called Yellen at 12:30 p.m. on Feb. 26, Bernanke had presented his semi-annual monetary policy report to the Senate Banking Committee — a panel of which Warren is a member.

During that hearing, Warren and Bernanke clashed over “too big to fail” banks, with the chairman being unable to convince the Massachusetts senator that progress was being made to level the playing field for smaller institutions.

As would be expected, Yellen’s work at the Fed has involved meetings with bankers around the world, the records show. 

But she has also met with several power players back at home, including Jamie Dimon of JPMorgan Chase and executives from Goldman Sachs, Fidelity Insurance and Wells Fargo. Wells Fargo, a San Francisco-based bank, says the company’s relationship with her extends back to her time at the San Francisco Fed.

Another financial services executive who has a longstanding relationship with the Federal Reserve praised her meeting style. 

“Whether you agree or disagree with her, she gets into the details. It’s impressive,” the executive said. “You may have philosophical differences with her, but your discussions are going to be robust.”

 Yellen has also met twice with top leaders at the AFL-CIO, the nation’s largest labor federation, including chief Richard Trumka.

The Fed’s meeting records are incomplete because they do not cover the months of October and November, during which time Yellen was making the rounds to talk to senators about her nomination for Fed chief.

The Senate Banking Committee is expected to vote on Yellen’s nomination on Thursday, and she is expected to sail to confirmation in the full Senate.

Democratic Sen. Bob Menendez (N.J.), a member of the Senate Banking Committee, said he met Yellen for the first time in late October. 

“He was very impressed by her,” a spokeswoman told The Hill.

Other members on the Banking panel also had their first encounter with Yellen in recent weeks.

Through Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) and Senate staffers say that lawmakers already know Yellen “quite well” through her record and body of work, the burst of personal meetings has been beneficial.

Yellen’s meeting schedule is clearly getting heavier. Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.), chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, met with her on Monday, his office said.

But some members of the panel remain skeptical of backing Yellen’s confirmation.  

Sen. David Vitter (R-La.), who plans to vote against Yellen, said he isn’t sold by Yellen’s promise to continue Bernanke’s efforts at greater public outreach.

“The best way to get there is through true openness and transparency at the Fed,” he said, “not just a better sort of managed PR campaign, but real openness and transparency.”

 

This post was updated at 12:20 p.m., Nov. 20.