Janet Yellen, 74, President-elect Joe Biden’s pick for Treasury secretary, earned more than $7 million in speaking fees during 2019-2020, according to financial disclosure forms released Thursday by US Office of Government Ethics and reported by The Wall Street Journal (WSJ).
The documents show that Yellen's speaking engagements included the Bank of America, Google, UBS, Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and hedge-fund firm Citadel LLC, with over 50 paid events, ranging between $50,000 to nearly $300,000 for a single speech - more than her yearly salary during her years as chairwoman of the Federal Reserve, reaching just over $200,000, according to The Guardian.
Yellen, considered a pioneering Jewish economist, was chosen by president-elect Joe Biden to be the next US Treasury secretary back in November. However, she still requires a formal approval from the US Senate for the nomination to be final. The submission of her financial records to the US Office for Government Ethics is seen as an effort to secure her future position.
She was the first woman to assume the position of chairwoman of the Federal Reserve, which she held between 2014-2018 before being replaced by President Donald Trump, who alleged during the 2016 presidential campaign that Yellen kept interest rates low for political reasons to benefit then President Barack Obama.
It's not uncommon for well-known government officials and politicians to focus on paid speeches and public appearances after retiring. According to The Guardian, Ben Bernanke, who served as chair of the US Federal Reserve prior to Yellen, earned about $250,000 for a single speech after leaving the central bank.
Now, returning to serve as an elected official, Yellen has indicated that she would ask for official permission before making decisions involving one of the many companies that hired her to speak at events once she is formally appointed to the Treasury. But when that can happen remains unclear.
At the moment, no hearings for Biden nominees have been scheduled in the Senate, according to WSJ. Two Georgia runoff elections scheduled for next Tuesday will determine when the hearings take place. If Democrats manage to win both, they will have control in the Senate and will be able to schedule the hearings. If Republicans win one or both positions, they will keep control and things may get delayed.
A person familiar with the matter told WSJ that the conformation hearing for Yellen's appointment are in the process of being scheduled and will be announced shortly after the Georgia runoff.