In brief

  • Janet Yellen served as Federal Reserve Chair from 2014 to 2018.
  • She has encouraged large fiscal stimuluses to help the US through the coronavirus pandemic.
  • In 2018, she said she was "not a fan" of Bitcoin.

President-elect Joe Biden is set to nominate former Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen as Treasury Secretary, The Wall Street Journal is reporting.

If confirmed, Yellen, who led the Federal Reserve from February 2014 to February 2018, would guide the Biden administration's approach to government spending. And it would give Yellen, a Bitcoin skeptic, a bigger role in determining access to cryptocurrencies than she had at the Fed.

The Treasury Department has direct oversight of multiple offices, including Domestic Finance, which covers the banking system; Tax Policy, which could have some discretion in determining future cryptocurrency liabilities; and the Office of Financial Stability (OFS), which was created specifically to carry out the Troubled Asset Relief Program in October 2008 after the subprime mortgage crisis.

That, of course, was the same month that the Bitcoin white paper was published.

And, yes, Yellen has thoughts on Bitcoin. In October 2018, she said of Bitcoin, "I will just say outright I am not a fan."

In a Congressional hearing, in December 2017, she called it a "highly speculative asset" but pointed out that the Federal Reserve played little role in cryptocurrencies.

But the move to the Treasury Department would mean that Yellen, who has over a decade of experience crafting US monetary policy within the Federal Reserve System, could soon be in charge of formulating the administration’s fiscal policy.

Yellen would take over from Trump administration Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, who oversaw a 33% increase in public debt from 2017 to 2020. Mnuchin's role in guiding fiscal policy was, of course, made more difficult by the coronavirus pandemic.

Yellen backed government spending during the pandemic, calling the $2.2 trillion CARES Act “impressive” and urging that more be done to help the United States through the worst of COVID-19.

That suggests she would encourage Biden to go further than the Trump administration did. Talks for a second stimulus stalled in early October, with President Trump stating that any relief package should be capped at $1.6 billion.

"The important thing to remember about Yellen is that she has weathered storms before," CoinShares Chief Strategy Officer Meltem Demirors told Decrypt. "She's moderate and measured in her approach, and less likely to do something radical/novel."

Joe Biden has yet to formally announce Yellen's nomination.