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Report: Fischer to be Vice Chairman of Federal Reserve

Former Bank of Israel Governor is leading candidate to become vice chairman of the Federal Reserve, say American sources.
By Elad Benari
First Publish: 12/12/2013, 5:15 AM

Professor Stanley Fischer
Professor Stanley Fischer
Flash 90

Former Bank of Israel Governor Stanley Fischer is President Barack Obama’s leading candidate to become vice chairman of the Federal Reserve, Bloomberg reported on Wednesday, citing people familiar with the matter.

Fischer, 70, would replace Janet Yellen as the Fed’s No. 2 official, according to the sources, who asked for anonymity because the decision is not final. There are no plans by the White House to announce the choice this week, one of them told Bloomberg.

Obama has already offered the job to Fischer, who accepted it, according to another person familiar with the process.

That source told Bloomberg the decision was made jointly by the president and Yellen, who is awaiting Senate confirmation to succeed Ben S. Bernanke as Fed chairman.

“I would expect Yellen and Fischer to work closely together and form a very potent team,” said Mark Gertler, a New York University economist who has coauthored research with Bernanke.

“He has the ideal mix of qualities you would like in a central banker: wise, experienced and cool under pressure. His academic work was thoughtful and mainstream, where I’d expect him to be as a central banker.”

Fischer, who holds both U.S. and Israeli citizenship and now lives in New York, stepped down as governor of the Bank of Israel on June 30, midway through his second five-year term.

As Fed vice chairman, Fischer would take over a post that Yellen turned into a platform for promoting greater transparency at the central bank, including spelling out goals for inflation and unemployment.

Fischer earned a reputation as a trailblazer as the first central banker to cut interest rates in 2008 at the start of the global economic crisis and the first to raise them the following year in response to signs of a financial recovery, noted Bloomberg.

He also bought up foreign currency in unprecedented amounts to drive down the value of the shekel and boost exports, more than doubling reserves.

Among his innovations at the Bank of Israel was the shifting of responsibility for the monthly interest-rate decision from the governor alone to a six-member Monetary Committee, including three outside academics. He employed a Fed-style dual focus on employment and growth alongside price stability, where previous governors placed an emphasis on inflation.

In 2011, Fischer attempted to run for the position of head of the International Monetary Fund, but he was disqualified due to the fact that his age at the time was two years beyond the ceiling set by the organization’s bylaws.

Fischer’s resignation from the Bank of Israel was followed by an embarrassing saga, whereby the bank went without a governor for more than 100 days.

The position was originally offered to Professor Jacob Frenkel, who previously served two terms as the Governor of the Bank of Israel between 1991 and 2000. Frenkel, however, withdrew his candidacy because of allegations that he shoplifted an item in Hong Kong several years ago.

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Finance Minister Yair Lapid then offered the position to Professor Leo Leiderman but he, too, withdrew his candidacy for the position.

Finally, after facing criticism for not having done so right away, Netanyahu and Lapid appointed to the position Dr. Karnit Flug, who had been Fischer’s deputy and had been recommended by Fischer himself as his successor.