Volcker, Paul Adolph

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.

Volcker, Paul Adolph

Paul Adolph Volcker, 1927–, American economist, government official, and banker, b. Cape May, N.J. After working as an under secretary in the Treasury Department (1969–74) and as president of the New York Federal Reserve Bank (1975–79), he was appointed the chairman of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System in 1979. He pursued a restrictive monetary policy to combat inflation but was forced by a stagnant economy and high unemployment to support increased monetary growth during the mid-1980s. Volcker was succeeded as Federal Reserve Board chairman by Alan Greenspan in 1987. He subsequently was successful as an investment banker, retiring in 1996.

In 1999 an official panel he headed that investigated Swiss banks' handling of the accounts of Holocaust victims issued a report that was critical of the banks but did not recommend any changes in a settlement reached in 1998 (see Holocaust). Volcker was chairman of the International Accounting Standards Committee Foundation from 2000 to 2006 and, in the wake of the Enron bankruptcy, headed (2002) an independent oversight board at Arthur Andersen, the accounting firm that was responsible for auditing Enron. He also chaired (2004–5) the UN's investigation into wrongdoing in the UN oil-for-food program for Iraq. In 2009 President Barack Obama appointed Volcker as the head of the new Economy Recovery Advisory Board. Volcker is the author, with Toyoo Gyohten, of Changing Fortunes: The World's Money and the Threat to American Leadership (1992).

See biography by J. B. Treaster (2004); biography of his professional life by W. L. Silber (2012); study by W. Greider (1988).

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