Banking

Yellen confirmed as Treasury secretary; Tubman on the $20 moves forward

Receiving Wide Coverage …

Confirmed

By a Senate vote of 84-15, Janet Yellen was confirmed “as the first woman to lead the U.S. Treasury Department, ” the Wall Street Journal reported. “Ms. Yellen, the former Federal Reserve chairwoman, will also become the first person to lead the Treasury, Fed and the White House Council of Economic Advisers.”

“The 74-year-old economist, who has been at the forefront of economic policy-making for 25 years, will now play a key role advancing President Biden’s economic agenda, starting with an ambitious $1.9 trillion economic relief package that is already facing resistance from GOP lawmakers worried about its cost.”

“Her quick bipartisan confirmation underscored the support she has from both Republicans and Democrats given her previous stint as Fed chair from 2014 to 2018,” the New York Times said.

Yellen “is expected to play a key role in gaining congressional approval of Biden’s $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package, which is running into stiff opposition from Republicans who believe the price tag is too high,” the Washington Post said.

Back on the front burner

In other Treasury news, the White House said the department “was resuming efforts to put escaped slave turned abolitionist Harriet Tubman on the $20 bill,” the Journal reported. “The redesign of the bill would place a woman on the front of U.S. paper currency for the first time in more than a century and replace President Andrew Jackson, a slave owner, who would move to the back of the note.”

“Putting Tubman’s image on the currency had been undertaken by the Obama administration but the work wasn’t completed during former President Donald Trump’s tenure.”

“Tubman will become the first Black person on the face of American paper currency and the first woman in generations; Martha Washington appeared on a $1 bill in the 1890s, and Pocahontas was in a group picture on the $20 bill in the 1860s,” the Washington Post said, citing Reuters.

Black out

Apollo Global Management CEO Leon Black plans to step down “after an independent review revealed larger-than-expected payments to disgraced financier Jeffrey Epstein that it nevertheless deemed justified,” the Journal reported.

“The months-long review by Dechert LLP found no evidence that Mr. Black was involved in the criminal activities of the late Epstein, who was indicted in 2019 on federal sex-trafficking charges involving underage girls.” The law firm “found the fees that the billionaire had paid Epstein were for legitimate advice on trust- and estate-tax planning that proved to be of significant value to Mr. Black and his family. Mr. Black paid Epstein a total of $148 million, plus a $10 million donation to his charity—far more than was previously known.”

“According to the report, Mr. Black believed that Epstein’s advice, which was vetted by outside lawyers, had ‘conferred more than $1 billion and as much as $2 billion,’” the Financial Times reported. “Mr. Black said the findings ‘confirm the key facts I have previously disclosed concerning my relationship with Jeffrey Epstein, including that I was completely unaware of Mr. Epstein’s abhorrent misconduct that came to light in late 2018.’”

The law firm’s findings “created friction between Mr. Black and one of Apollo’s other founders, Joshua Harris,” the New York Times said. “In recent months, Apollo investors had begun openly questioning the financial ties between Mr. Black and Mr. Epstein, who died in 2019. One of the people said Mr. Harris believed that Mr. Black showed poor judgment in consorting with Mr. Epstein, and that the new findings would further hurt Apollo’s reputation.”

Strong showing

UBS’s net earnings jumped 54% over the same period in 2019 from gains in its banking and wealth management units and said it plans to buy back $4.5 billion of shares over the next three years, including $1.1 billion this quarter.

“But a cloud over new Chief Executive Ralph Hamers is threatening to throw Switzerland’s largest lender off course this year,” the Journal said. Last month “a Dutch court ordered a fresh probe into his role in a money-laundering scandal at his former employer, ING Groep NV. UBS has said it is backing Mr. Hamers in the probe, which is expected to take a year or more.” Wall Street Journal, Financial Times

Wall Street Journal

Win-win

Wall Street banks are offering commodities companies “cheaper rates to finance reduced-carbon production of everything from oil to aluminum. The lending also helps banks, increasingly under pressure from shareholders and regulators, meet their own green-investing targets.”

Elsewhere

First in line

Black-owned businesses hope the latest round of the Paycheck Protection Program “won’t fail them,” and many are going to community development financial institutions (CDFIs) to apply for the loans, CNBC reports.

“CDFIs have long played a role in underserved communities. They are credit unions, banks, micro-loan funds, or venture capital providers that provide low-income communities access to financial services. CDFIs are also among those given early access to the latest round of PPP loans. When the program reopened on Jan. 11, community financial institutions that work with underserved communities were first in line.”

Quotable

“It’s important that our notes … reflect the history and diversity of our country, and Harriet Tubman’s image gracing the new $20 note would certainly reflect that. So we’re exploring ways to speed up that effort.” — White House press secretary Jen Psaki on the Treasury Department plan to resume efforts to put the former slave and abolitionist on the bill.



 

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