FILE PHOTO: Federal Reserve Chairman Janet Yellen speaks during a news conference after a two-day Federal Open Markets Committee (FOMC) policy meeting in Washington
INTERNATIONAL - Janet Yellen visited Wall Street for a paid appearance two months after stepping down as Federal Reserve chairperson, discussing the economy and interest rates at an event hosted by investment bank Jefferies that included a sit-down dinner for 40.

In a short telephone interview, Yellen, who ran the US Federal Reserve the last four years until early February, said she revealed no confidential information at Monday’s gathering, put on by Jefferies chief executive Richard Handler.

One source familiar with the event said it was her first such engagement since leaving the Fed.

“I talked about the economy and general perspectives on monetary policy,” Yellen said late on Wednesday.

She said she was paid, but declined to say how much, and did not provide details.

The programme included a question-and-answer session with more than 100 Jefferies clients, where according to the source she stuck close to the gradual rate-hike message that her successor, Jerome Powell, has also delivered since taking charge.

Later, over dinner at the Manhattan penthouse of Jefferies’ chief executive, Yellen told executives from hedge funds, private equity firms and other companies that she considered inflation to be in check and unlikely to spike, so rates would stay relatively low, according to a second person familiar with the discussion.

Cashing in after years in public service is a well-trodden path for policymakers and regulators, highlighting the demand among investors for any exclusive insights they can offer.

In the case of former Fed chiefs, who can earn an annual salary in one night and have no constraints on expressing their views provided they do not broach confidential matters, those insights could potentially move markets.

Yellen’s predecessor Ben Bernanke waited just a little more than a month after leaving the Fed in 2014 before earning some $250000 (R2.97million) for a private talk in Abu Dhabi. He followed that up with similarly-priced private dinners with investors in New York, at which he predicted rates would remain low for a long time.

Former Fed chairperson Alan Greenspan waited only a week after stepping down before addressing a private dinner in 2006 hosted by Lehman Brothers, the investment bank whose collapse two years later sent the global financial crisis into high gear.

Under Yellen, who earned just more than $200000 a year as chairperson, the Fed turned the corner from its crisis-era policies of near-zero interest rates and trillions of dollars of bond-buying. 

- REUTERS