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Biden Taps Yellen for Treasury Post

Regulatory Agencies

Joe Biden will nominate former Fed chair Janet Yellen to serve as Secretary of the Treasury, the presumptive president revealed Nov. 30.

If Yellen is confirmed by the Senate, she would be the first woman to lead the Treasury in its 231-year history. She also would be the first person to have served as Treasury Secretary, Chair of the Council of Economic Advisers and Chair of the Federal Reserve. 

Biden also announced his intent to appoint Neera Tanden as Director of the Office of Management and Budget, Wally Adeyemo as Deputy Secretary of the Treasury and Cecilia Rouse as Chair of the Council of Economic Advisers. Tanden and Adeyemo would also have to be confirmed by the Senate. 

“This team is comprised of respected and tested groundbreaking public servants who will help the communities hardest hit by COVID-19 and address the structural inequities in our economy,” Biden said in a statement announcing the appointments. “They will work tirelessly to ensure every American enjoys a fair return for their work and an equal chance to get ahead, and that our businesses can thrive and outcompete the rest of the world.” 

Yellen previously served Chair of the Federal Reserve from 2014 to 2018, becoming the first woman to lead America’s central banking system. She served as the body’s Vice Chair from 2010 to 2014 following an earlier term on the Federal Reserve Board of Governors and as President of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco. 

In addition, she served as Chair of the Council of Economic Advisers under President Clinton, and has held various other roles with national and international economics organizations, including as a Distinguished Fellow in Residence with the Economic Studies Program at the Brookings Institution, as well as a faculty member at the University of California at Berkeley for the last 40 years. 

Retirement Policy Views?

While Yellen has an extensive background on monetary and fiscal policy, her views on tax and retirement policy are not well known. She has been cited by many outlets as being a monetary “dove” but a fiscal “hawk.” To that end, she was reported as saying in a 2018 interview at the Charles Schwab Impact conference that the debt path of the U.S. was “unsustainable” and suggested as a remedy that she would raise taxes and cut retirement spending.

From a retirement policy perspective, Yellen would help develop Biden’s overall tax policy agenda and would oversee regulations originating with the Treasury Department and IRS, including, for example: 

  • regulations relating to SECURE Act modifications to 401(k) plans; 
  • regulations updating electronic delivery rules for providing notices and making participant elections;
  • regulations and related guidance on the exception to the unified plan rule for multiple employer plans (proposed regulations were published July 3, 2019, but have not yet been finalized);
  • guidance on missing participants, including guidance on uncashed checks; and 
  • guidance on student loan payments and qualified retirement plans and 403(b) plans.

Yellen would also play a major role in any outstanding issues relating to the CARES Act funding and additional Coronavirus stimulus relief that Congress may approve in a lame-duck session or early in 2021. As Treasury Secretary she would also serve on the Board of Directors of the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation.