As speculation continues to swirl over the future of Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, a new name has been placed on her short-list of possible replacements: Bank of America chief executive Brian Moynihan.
Fox Business has learned that Moynihan, the long-time CEO of the nation’s second-largest bank by assets, is regarded by the White House as a candidate to run Treasury in the future. According to people with knowledge of the Biden Administration’s thinking, Moynihan’s name is on a very short, short-list of replacements for Yellen that includes Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo, and possible as a dark-horse candidate, Securities and Exchange Commission chair Gary Gensler.
Shares of Bank of America turned negative Friday after Fox Business first reported the news.
Lawrence DiRita, a bank president who is in charge of public affairs, declined comment but would not deny the speculation about Moynihan. A White House spokesman declined comment. At Friday’s White House press briefing, press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre, was questioned about earlier reporting by Fox Business about Yellen’s potential departure and called it “pure speculation.”
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Indeed, speculation about Yellen’s future with the administration has been rampant for the past year, as the economy faced rampant inflation, and a possible slowdown. As Treasury Secretary, Yellen was said to be among the architects of trillions of dollars in spending pushed by the White House through a Democrat controlled senate and house that stoked inflation and forced the Federal Reserve to raise interest rates.
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Treasury Secretaries often last a single presidential term or less because the job of leading the $23 trillion US economy has a high burnout rate. People close to the White House say the decision to step down will be the 76-year-old Yellen’s to make. Before becoming Treasury Secretary, Yellen had a long career as a government economist including as Federal Reserve chair during the Obama years.
When recently asked if she would be replaced as Treasury Secretary during the final two years of the Biden presidency, Yellen responded: “I have no plan to leave.”
Either way, Moynihan, 63, a long-time banker and former corporate general counsel, has been making the rounds at state dinners, and has been conducting an extensive media tour, sounding very much like a spokesman for the Biden Administration’s economic policy. Moynihan recently told Fox Business’s Neil Cavuto, that despite recent Fed rate increases to slow growth and tamp down on inflation, he doesn’t see the economy “going off a cliff” crediting the “resilience of the American consumer,” very much in line with White House messaging.
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The press tour, which included an appearance last Sunday on CBS’s “Face the Nation,” is unusual for the normally reticent CEO who is often overshadowed on the public stage by more voluble banking executives such as JP Morgan’s Jamie Dimon and Blackrock’s Larry Fink.
But Moynihan has clearly increased his public profile as part of an effort by his handlers to tout him for a possible senior government position, such as Treasury Secretary, according to senior Wall Street executives. Over the past two months, Moynihan attended the United Nation’s climate change conference; met with King Charles and British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak; attended a White House dinner for French President Emmanuel Macron, and appeared at President Biden’s reception for Kennedy Center honorees.
“He’s definitely now on the short list for Treasury Secretary,” said one senior Wall Street executive with knowledge of the Biden’s Administration’s thinking. “It’s likely either he or Raimondo if Yellen decides to step away.”
Moynihan has been CEO of the Bank of America since 2010. With $2.4 trillion in assets, Bank of America is the nation’s second largest bank behind JP Morgan’s $3.4 trillion. His tenure is considered mostly a success, having steered the big bank out of the financial crisis in 2008, and integrated its purchase of the brokerage firm Merrill Lynch.
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The bank’s stock price, rebounding from the depths of the banking collapse where Bank of America received bailout funds, has nearly doubled since Moynihan’s been CEO compared to a tripling of the Standard & Poor’s index of big-company stocks.
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