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Paul Volcker: The Making of a Financial Legend

Paul Volcker: The Making of a Financial Legend

by Joseph B. Treaster, Arthur Levitt, Arthur Levitt (Foreword by)

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As the Chairman of the Federal Reserve from 1979 to 1982, Paul Volcker established himself as one of the most influential economic thinkers. Currently a major advocate for corporate governance and accounting reforms, Volcker’s reputation as a great business leader with uncompromising ethics continues to this day. Written by award-winning New York Times


As the Chairman of the Federal Reserve from 1979 to 1982, Paul Volcker established himself as one of the most influential economic thinkers. Currently a major advocate for corporate governance and accounting reforms, Volcker’s reputation as a great business leader with uncompromising ethics continues to this day. Written by award-winning New York Times journalist Joseph Treaster, Paul Volcker: The Making of a Financial Legend takes readers through the most compelling moments of this legend’s life in private and public service. From his early days as a young Treasury Department official through his appointments to the New York Federal Reserve Bank, the Federal Reserve, and James D. Wolfensohn, Inc., this inspiring book captures the significant moments in Volcker life and explores the ethical, economic, and moral dilemmas he faced at every turn.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“This new biography of Paul Volcker…. Adds colour and personality to a figure who often came across to the general public as a ‘cold and arrogant numbers cruncher.’” (CFO Europe, July 2004)

It may be hard to remember that the chairman of the Federal Reserve Board can be reviled as well as revered. But witness the tenure of Paul Volcker, Alan Greenspan's predecessor, whose tough economic policies halted the runaway inflation that staggered the American economy in the late 1970's and early 80's. Even so, Volcker's engineering of ever higher interest rates cost millions of Americans their jobs. (Embittered Democrats would include President Jimmy Carter among the victims.) In ''Paul Volcker: The Making of a Financial Legend,'' Joseph B. Treaster, a financial reporter for The New York Times, has written something of a mash note to the retired Fed chairman, a slim biography that lauds Volcker's steadfastness in applying the economic shock therapy that laid the groundwork for the boom years in the 1990's. Treaster offers little in the way of new policy history; William Greider's ''Secrets of the Temple'' (1988) provides a much more comprehensive and skeptical account of Volcker's tenure at the Fed. Where Treaster does break ground is in his personal portrait. Volcker could appear insensitive in public, but Treaster enters into his family life as well; particularly touching is Volcker's relationship with his son, who has cerebral palsy.Treaster's depiction of Volcker's honesty and resilience highlights some attributes that American policy makers should keep in mind as the Greenspan era draws to a close. ALEXANDRA STARR (New York Times Book Review, May 23, 2004)

Foreign Affairs
Paul Volcker has become an American icon-if not in every bar, at least in the worlds of politics, business, and finance. This short, readable biography covers not only his public life at the U.S. Treasury and the Federal Reserve Bank of New York and as chairman of the Federal Reserve System's Board of Governors, but also his little-known childhood and family life. One of the dramatic public events covered is the "Nixon shock" of 1971, when the United States dropped its commitment to convert dollars into gold on request by foreign central banks and negotiated a devaluation of the dollar. (Volcker was the key deputy to Treasury Secretary John Connolly.) Another is the switch, soon after President Jimmy Carter's appointment of Volcker as chairman of the Federal Reserve in 1979, to a stiff anti-inflation policy, which provoked mixed reactions during the painful period of disinflation but earned Volcker lasting respect after it was over. In addition to providing a flattering portrait of a dedicated public servant, Treaster offers an informative, nontechnical glimpse at how the Federal Reserve works.

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Praise for Paul Volcker
The making of a financial legend

"Paul Volcker may be the most important figure of our time on the U.S. economic scene. In his book, Paul Volcker: The Making of a Financial Legend, Joseph Treaster has captured the man, his time, and his influence with exceptional insight, clarity, and readability. It's a must-read for anyone interested in the American economy."
—Myron Kandel, CNN Financial Editor

"Only a truly great chairman of the Federal Reserve could stay the course, keep interest rates at an all-time high to lower inflation, and save the economy in the face of near unanimous denunciation and derision. That drumbeat was summed up in a congressman's shout, 'Your course of action is wrong. There isn't anybody who says you're right.' That chairman was Paul Volcker. Events, of course, proved Volcker right."
—Ed Koch, former Mayor, New York City and current Partner, Bryan Cave LLP

"Paul Volcker is a true American hero. His courage as a central banker in leading the assault on the Great Inflation of the 1970s was the single most important step on the road to economic renewal in the United States. Treaster's probing look inside the man reveals a strength of character that made it easy for Volcker to do the toughest job in America."
—Stephen S. Roach, Chief Global Economist, Morgan Stanley

"At a time when a number of business leaders have betrayed the public trust upon which their power, position, and, ultimately, the prosperity of their companies depend, Paul Volcker stands out as a financial leader of unusual competence, unquestionable diligence, and uncompromising integrity. Joseph Treaster has vividly captured the essential greatness of the man in his excellent book."
—David Rockefeller III, former Chairman and CEO of The Chase Manhattan Bank

"Joseph Treaster has written a splendidly useful book that reveals how one courageous banker broke the back of double-digit inflation in America. There are up-to-the-minute lessons here for everyone who wants to learn from history rather than be condemned to repeat it.''
—Marshall Loeb, columnist for CBS MarketWatch and former Managing Editor of Fortune and Money

Meet the Author

JOSEPH B. TREASTER has been a reporter for The New York Times for more than thirty years. He began his career with The Times as a foreign correspondent in Southeast Asia and has reported from dozens of countries in Asia, the Middle East, Europe, Africa, Latin America, and the Caribbean for The Times and other publications. While based in New York, he wrote about illegal drugs, crime, and terrorism for several years and traveled on special assignments to the Middle East, Latin America, Europe, and the Baltic states, before studying at the Columbia Business School in 1995 and 1996 and shifting to financial news reporting for The Times. He has received numerous journalism awards for his work domestically and internationally, including three from the Overseas Press Club of America for work in Africa and Latin America.

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