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  • Globalization and the World of Finance
  • National Financial Affairs


Finance | Economy | Strategic Planning | Globalization


During service under five presidents, from John F. Kennedy to Ronald Reagan, Paul Volcker was a major architect of the United States' financial and economic policy. He was chair of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System, and former undersecretary of the Department of the Treasury and president of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. As chair of the Federal Reserve Board during one of the most turbulent periods in United States monetary history, he helped lower double-digit inflation rates in the 1980s and ushered in an era of financial deregulation and innovation.

Mr. Volcker was born in 1927 in Cape May, NJ. After graduating summa cum laude from Princeton University, he attended Harvard's Graduate School of Public Administration, earning a master's degree in political economy and government. His postgraduate work was done at the London School of Economics as a rotary fellow. He is Professor Emeritus of International Economic Policy at the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, Princeton University.

Paul 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. He conducted international monetary negotiations transition from the Bretton Woods fixed exchange rate system to the more flexible floating-rates system, still used today.

In 1979, Mr. Volcker was nominated by President Jimmy Carter to fill the most powerful economic seat in government, chair of the Federal Reserve Board. When he took over in August of 1979, inflation was running over 13 percent a year, the value of the dollar was falling, and financial markets were concerned about renewed inflation. He studiously avoided taking rigid ideological positions with regard to monetary policy, preferring a more flexible and discretionary approach. In addition to fighting inflation, he presided over the Central Bank in an era in which control of the money supply was greatly complicated due to the deregulation of the financial industry in 1980.

Paul Volcker, who took a substantial cut in salary to head the Federal Reserve Board, received numerous awards and honorary degrees from a number of institutions, including Notre Dame, Princeton, Dartmouth, New York University, Fairleigh Dickinson, Bryant College, Adelphi, and Lamar University. His first job after leaving government in 1987 was as an unpaid chair of the National Commission on the Public Service, a private group working on behalf of the nation's civil servants. He soon became chair of the New York investment banking firm James D. Wolfensohn, earning a large salary for the first time in his life, and continued to be a respected commentator on the nation's financial affairs in the 1990s.

Among his many activities, Mr. Volcker is head of the Independent Committee of Eminent Persons, an international body established to investigate the Swiss bank accounts of holocaust victims. The first Global Leadership Award was given to him on June 10, 2004 in New York City, honoring his lifetime of public service to the nation and to the world.

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