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Bond fund giant Pimco hires Bernanke as adviser

Published:Friday | May 1, 2015 | 12:00 AM

Pimco has hired former Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke as a senior adviser, the bond fund manager said Wednesday.

It's the latest private venture for Bernanke, who, since his departure from the nation's central bank last year, has been on the speaking circuit and was recently hired by a major hedge fund as an adviser as well.

Bernanke will provide economic advice to Pimco's fund managers and will occasionally interact with the firm's clients, the Newport Beach, California, company said.

It is routine for former Fed officials to take their economic skills and Rolodex of contacts - to Wall Street after their tenure ends at the bank. Pimco hired Alan Greenspan, the Fed chairman before Bernanke, in 2007 to provide economic advice. Paul Volcker, who led the Fed in the late 1970s and most of the 1980s, went to work for an investment firm after he left the Fed as well.

Bernanke served two terms as chairman of the Federal Reserve, from 2006 through 2014, spending most of his term dealing with the 2008 financial crisis and the economic aftermath left in its wake.

Under his term, the Fed cut interest rates to zero to help bring the US economy out of recession. When zero interest rates were not enough to spur economic growth, the Fed went into uncharted territory for the US economy by implementing several massive bond-buying programmes to push interest rates down even further.

Eight years after the financial crisis, the US economy has nearly recovered. The vast majority of economists credit Bernanke's Fed with being largely responsible for that recovery. Unemployment has fallen from a recession high of 10 per cent in 2009 to 5.5 per cent. The stock market recovered all of the losses from 2007 and 2008 and is setting new record highs.

But Bernanke's actions were not without controversy.

In 2008, the Fed effectively nationalised American International Group when it appeared the insurance company would collapse. It was the start of what has become known as 'too big to fail', where government regulators acknowledged that certain financial institutions were simply too intertwined into the global economy. The Fed's bond-buying programmes nearly quadrupled the central bank's balance sheet.

Bernanke has been especially prolific in his post-Fed career. He has given dozens of paid speeches, even with his speaking fee reportedly as high as US$250,000. Earlier this month, Bernanke was hired by Citadel, the US$25-billion hedge fund run by billionaire Ken Griffin.

- AP