Who is Janet Yellen? What you should know about the Treasury secretary

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If you’ve been reading about one of the largest financial institution failures in 15 years with the fall of Silicon Valley Bank, you’ve probably heard the name Janet Yellen mentioned.

She was the first woman to chair the Federal Reserve and now the first to lead the Treasury Department. This is what you should know about her.

Who is Janet Yellen?

Yellen was born in Brooklyn in 1946, graduated from Brown University in 1967 and earned her PhD at Yale.

She taught at Harvard and the University of California at Berkeley. President Bill Clinton appointed Yellen to the Federal Reserve Board of Governors in 1994. Clinton named her Chair of the White House Council of Economic Advisors three years later.

She served as chair of the Fed from 2014 to 2018. Jerome Powell now chairs the Fed.

In her nomination, President Barack Obama said, “America’s workers and their families will have a champion in” Yellen.

“Janet is committed to both sides of the Fed’s dual mandate, and she understands the necessity of a stable financial system where we move ahead with the reforms that we’ve begun -- to protect consumers, to ensure that no institution is too big to fail, and to make sure that taxpayers are never again left holding the bag because of the mistakes of the reckless few,” Obama said in 2013.

Yellen is now secretary of the Treasury, sworn in on Jan. 26, 2021. She is the first person to lead the Fed, Council of Economic Advisors and Treasury Department.

Why has she been in the news?

Yellen told CBS News’ “Face the Nation” on Sunday that the government won’t bailout investors with Silicon Valley Bank, or SVB.

“The reforms that have been put in place means that we’re not going to do that again,” Yellen said. “But we are concerned about depositors and are focused on trying to meet their needs.”

SVB focused on lending to tech startups. A “run” on the bank led to federal regulators taking control of the bank. Customers started withdrawing their deposits all at once, forcing the bank to sell bonds at a loss. Regulators shut down Signature Bank on Sunday.

“The American banking system is really safe and well capitalized,” Yellen said. “It’s resilient.”

On Sunday, the Treasury Department, the Fed, and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation announced the bank’s clients would be protected. The FDIC insures depositors up to $250,000. Many depositors with the bank had more than that.

Yellen said rising interest rates have been a core issue for the bank. The Fed has been raising interest rates to fight inflation.