Bernanke Joins Brookings on First Work Day After Leaving FedJoshua Zumbrun and Jeff Kearns
Ben S. Bernanke arrived at the Brookings Institution to begin the next chapter in his professional life, the first workday after ending an eight-year term leading the Federal Reserve through crisis and recession.
The former Princeton University professor arrived at 8 a.m. at the Washington-based policy research center, where he will be a distinguished fellow in residence, said D.J. Nordquist, a Brookings spokeswoman. His successor, Janet Yellen, was sworn in as Fed chairman an hour later.
Bernanke, a Great Depression scholar before joining the central bank, will have time to work on a history of his years at the Fed, which included unprecedented actions such as cutting the benchmark interest rate to zero and buying bonds to lower long-term interest rates. Brookings said on its website today it will help Bernanke with the book he plans to write.
The book will be “a high priority for him,” said Mark Gertler, an economist at New York University and co-author of academic research with Bernanke.
“My guess is that he would want to write the definitive history of the Great Recession, much the way his academic role models Friedman and Schwartz wrote the history of the Great Depression,” Gertler said in an e-mail, referring to Milton Friedman and Anna Schwartz’s book “A Monetary History of the United States, 1867-1960” which laid much of the blame for the economic collapse of the 1930s at the feet of the Fed for keeping monetary policy too tight.
Bernanke, 60, joins former Fed Vice Chairmen Don Kohn and Alice Rivlin at Brookings.
“His firm, steady hand at the Fed’s tiller came at a crucial time in our nation’s history,” Brookings President Strobe Talbott said in a statement. “We know he’ll bring insights from his tenure at the Fed to his work at Brookings.”
Bernanke’s predecessor, Alan Greenspan, wrote a best-selling memoir of his life and almost two decades as Fed chairman. Pearson Plc’s Penguin Group Inc. paid Greenspan at least $8.5 million for the book in 2006, the year he left the central bank, in what was then the second-largest advance ever paid for a nonfiction book, according to The New York Times.
Robert Barnett, a lawyer at Williams & Connolly LLP in Washington who negotiated Greenspan’s book deal, declined to comment today on whether he is working with Bernanke or has had any contact with the former Fed chairman about negotiations.
Bernanke’s book could command an advance of $12 million or even as much as $17 million, twice as much as Greenspan’s, according Matthew Carnicelli, an independent literary agent and publishing consultant in New York who specializes in non-fiction topics, including politics and history.
“Publishers will probably have a bit of a feeding frenzy,” Carnicelli said. “There would be an even bigger audience, and publishers would be willing to spend a lot.”
A book deal can come together in “as fast as a few days to a week,” according to David Larabell, an agent at David Black Agency in New York.
“There’s an appetite for people in the room to tell their stories” after the crisis, he said. “This sort of thing is sort of a perennial hit.”
David Skidmore, a spokesman for the central bank and former Associated Press economics reporter, has taken a sabbatical to help Bernanke with editing and research.
The former Fed chief is joining the institute’s Hutchins Center on Fiscal and Monetary Policy, which opened in December and was endowed by a $10 million donation from Glenn Hutchins, co-founder of private-equity firm Silver Lake Management LLC. Hutchins, a director of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, founded Silver Lake in 1999 with David Roux, Jim Davidson and Roger McNamee.
The center focuses on the interplay between fiscal and monetary policy and is led by David Wessel, the former Wall Street Journal economics editor.
“We’re looking forward to helping Mr. Bernanke with the book he plans to write, and to getting his advice as we work to improve public understanding of fiscal and monetary policy and improve the quality and effectiveness of those policies,” Wessel wrote today on his blog.
Bernanke made the final public appearance as Fed chairman at Brookings Jan. 16 for the Hutchins center’s first event, where he looked back on the crisis and compared it with being in a car wreck. “You’re mostly involved in trying to avoid going off the bridge, and then later on you say, ‘Oh, my God,’” Bernanke said.
Bernanke said in response to a question at a Nov. 20 speech in Washington he plans to write and speak.
“Before I became a policy maker I was of course an academic and I worked on a lot of issues which are related to the things I have been doing for the last 11 or so years, such as the role of financial markets, financial stability in the economy, the links of financial stability and monetary policy, economic growth,” Bernanke said. “So there are lots of interesting things to work on, and I look forward to writing and speaking and taking a little bit more time to contemplate some interesting issues.”
While a professor at Princeton University in New Jersey, Bernanke was writing a book about the Great Depression in May 2001 before joining the Fed, according to his resume, which lists “Age of Delusion: How Politicians and Central Bankers Created the Great Depression” as a work in progress. Bernanke was a Fed governor from 2002 to 2005.
Bernanke said at his final press conference in December that he probably won’t leave town soon. “For the immediate future, my wife and I, I believe, will stay in Washington for -- for a bit of time,” he told reporters.