He's been called both brilliant and bombastic, has angered women and the faculty at Harvard University, yet he has also had the ear of two Presidents. He has a doctorate in economics but is known to curse like a sailor and has just been labeled an "overbearing smarty pants," who is ''more than a little interested" in replacing Ben Bernanke atop the Federal Reserve.
Such are some of the descriptives attached to the long and impressive resume of Larry Summers, a man who has been in and out of Washington and the White House for the past 30 years, last serving President Obama as the head the National Economic Council.
While the Wall Street Journal is suggesting Summers and Obama long ago discussed the possibility of him returning to the Fed next year, his nomination is anything but certain, while his confirmation would surely be contentious.
"Summers is one of the principal architects, along with (former Fed) chairman Alan Greeenspan, of many of the events that led to (the financial collapse of ) 2008," says Ed Dempsey, co-manager of the ATAC Inflation Rotation Fund in the attached fund. "He is also someone who presided over less than stellar, or in the words of our President, 'sub-optimal returns', at the Harvard endowment."
While surveys show that the majority of economists still expect that current Fed Vice Chair Janet Yellen will ultimately get tapped for the job; however, if true it would counter a 100-year curse in which the Fed's second-in-command has never assumed the top spot.
And Dempsey says while the uber-dovish rate stance of Yellen is well known and her tenure would likely be an extension of the status quo, Summers thoughts on quantitative easing are "kind of an unknown."
That said, Dempsey also defends the conventional wisdom stance on Yellen over Summers, citing the President's propensity to "appoint women to very powerful posts" in his administration.
But no matter who succeeds Ben Bernanke when his second term ends in January, Dempsey says they'll be inheriting a tough job and a difficult time.
"So you have a Fed that has signaled that it wants to get out of QE, and you're now going to have a leadership change roughly at the very same time," he says. "That is a very delicate transition and investors have to pay a lot of attention to the reactions in market.''
- Larry Summers
- Ben Bernanke
- President Obama
- Harvard University
- Ed Dempsey