Catching Up With Paul Volcker at the Waldorf

Former U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker
Former U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker

Paul Volcker lopes across the third-floor reception room at the Waldorf Astoria.

He stands head and shoulders above the rest of the people in the room.

Maybe shoulders and two heads. The eighty-three year old economist is six foot seven, although he looks even taller.

Volcker had been invited to a benefit for the National Academy Foundation, a New York-based nonprofit that prepares students from low and moderate income neighborhoods for college and professional careers. His host is the Promontory Financial Group, which provides consultants to financial companies. The founder of Promontory, Eugene A. Ludwig, was being presented with an award by NAF that evening.

At first it looks like Volcker does not know anyone in the room. He is alone, holding a glass of clear liquid. It has no ice or visible bubbles so either Volcker takes his cocktails neat or he was drinking water.

Soon, however, the loping comes to a halt. Volcker is standing by the side of a woman over whom he has maybe a foot and a half in height.

She is his wife, Anke Dening, with whom he eloped in February 2010. Prior to that she had been his assistant for many years. (Volcker’s first wife, Barbara, died in 1998.)

A reporter introduces himself to Volcker. They shake hands.

“I don’t have any questions, I just wanted to say hello,” the reporter says.

“That’s what they all say. Then they ask the questions,” Volcker says.

“I work for CNBC. I figured I have to at least grab the chance to chat with Paul Volcker,” the reporter says.

“Well, I guess it’s easier to make stuff up if you don’t bother to ask,” Volcker says, smiling broadly.

Volcker introduces Anke to the reporter’s date. The two women chat.

“What do you think of [Sen. Charles] Schumer trying to water down the derivatives parts of Dodd-Frank?” the reporter asks, almost instantly betraying his promise not to ask questions.

Volcker smiles again. He says something about close elections. He’s so tall the reporter almost wants to stand on his tip-toes to hear him better.

“Well, I think I’ll go sit down now,” Volcker says.

Anke and Volcker make their way back to their seats, where they are met by Ludwig.


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