Feb. 10 (Bloomberg) -- Federal Reserve Governor Kevin Warsh, who was one of Chairman Ben S. Bernanke’s closest financial-crisis advisers before becoming the only governor to question the expansion of record monetary stimulus in November, resigned after five years at the central bank.
Warsh, 40, a former investment banker who was the youngest- ever Fed governor when then-President George W. Bush appointed him in 2006, will leave “on or around March 31,” he said in a letter today to President Barack Obama that was released by the Fed in Washington.
His departure may give Bernanke a stronger hand to complete or potentially expand $600 billion in Treasury purchases through June. At the same time, Bernanke loses a link to Wall Street executives and Republican politicians as he carries out Congress’s overhaul of financial regulation and faces criticism from a political party that in the midterm election gained control of the U.S. House.
“You lose a forceful internal advocate for ending QE and trying to renormalize policy quicker,” said Vincent Reinhart, the Fed’s director of monetary affairs from 2001 to 2007, referring to the stimulus program known as quantitative easing.
Warsh’s term would have run through January 2018; most Fed governors don’t serve out their full terms. His resignation opens a second vacancy on the seven-member Board of Governors and leaves Elizabeth Duke, a former community banker, as the only governor not appointed or reappointed by Obama.
“I am honored to have served at a time of great consequence,” Warsh, who never dissented from a Federal Open Market Committee decision, said in his resignation letter. Bernanke said in a statement that Warsh’s “intimate knowledge of financial markets and institutions proved invaluable during the recent crisis.”
Warsh is still on good terms with Bernanke and is leaving because he sees it as the right time with an improving economy and not because of a policy dispute, said another person familiar with the matter who spoke on condition of anonymity. He’s likely to return to the private sector.
Warsh staked out an anti-inflation stance on monetary policy in September 2009, when he published a Wall Street Journal op-ed and gave a speech saying the Fed may need to raise interest rates with “greater force” than it has in the past. In June, he said any decision to expand the $2.3 trillion balance sheet must be subject to “strict scrutiny.”
On Nov. 8, he said in an op-ed and speech that the Fed’s Treasury buying “poses nontrivial risks” even after he voted to support the stimulus. He hasn’t publicly discussed his views on the purchases since November and backed the policy at the Fed’s subsequent meetings in December and January.
“When non-traditional tools are needed to loosen policy and markets are functioning more or less normally -- even with output and employment below trend -- the risk-reward ratio for policy action is decidedly less favorable,” Warsh said in the speech in New York. “As a result, we cannot and should not be as aggressive as conventional policy rules -- cultivated in more benign environments -- might judge appropriate.”
Warsh in 2002 married Jane Lauder, an heir to her grandmother Estee Lauder’s cosmetics fortune, making him wealthier than the rest of the Fed governors combined. His wife is the global president and general manager of Estee Lauder Cos.’ Origins and Ojon brands and is on the company’s board of directors.
Still more dissent at the Fed Reserve: Governor Kevin Warsh Resigns
While Ben Bernanke is self-congratulating his actions and his (disastrous) results, dissent is growing bigger and bigger at the Fed: a couple months ago, Hoenig said Bernanke's plan is a bargain with the Devil, last week Fisher said he won't support further QE and yesterday, Kevin Warsh resigned.