Business & Finance Career & Personal Development

How an Osun boy became a top official in Biden Administration

Written by Akinmade

Adewale “Wally” Adeyemo born in the rustic town of Gbogan, in Osun State is the Deputy Secretary of Treasury in USA, following a brilliant career in public office and service

Tunde Niyi-Akinmade

When on November 30, 2020, incoming American President, Senator Joe Biden appointed Adewale  Adeyemo, a Nigerian-born economist and finance expert, as the Deputy Secretary of Treasury for his incoming administration, the appointment was well received in many circles within and outside the American financial system.

But to some Democrats, they are yet to forget Adeyemo’s role in the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal, when as President Barack Obama’s International Economics Adviser he warned about the dangers of protectionism for the US economy explaining that a competitive Chinese economy was good for the global trade.

But many believe that Adeyemo, a young financial veteran, will bring a mainstream policy perspective with a background that breaks barriers to the US Treasury Department to be headed by Janet L. Yellen, a former President of the US Federal Reserve Bank.

Adeyemo, on the second day of his appointment, on his Twitter page (@wallyadeyemo)  twitted:

“Public service is about offering hope through the dark times and making sure that our economy works not just for the wealthy, but for the hard-working people who make it run. As Deputy Treasury Secretary, I look forward to helping us build back our economy better.”

Wally Adeyemo (courtesy New York times)

His appointment came on the heels of the promise by Joe Biden to have a diversified cabinet and appointees.  Adeyemo, on resumption at his post, became the first Black Deputy Secretary of the United States Treasury Department and one of the most influential black individuals in America.

For Adeyemo, born in Nigeria on May 20, 1981, it was the icing on his intriguing but successful life since his parents emigrated to the US when he was just a two-year-old baby.

Popularly called “Wally” he had made good his stay in God’s own country, attending some good schools and charting an impressive career in Finance, Public Office and Service since his graduation from Yale University.

He grew up with his two siblings in the east of Los Angeles, California, where he attended Eisenhower High School, Rialto in California for his high school, graduating in 1999. He obtained his first degree from the University of California, UC Berkeley, where he was the President of the Students’ Association in 2001, and went on to obtain a Juris Doctor (JD) degree from Yale Law School in 2009.

His first job was serving as an editor at The Hamilton Project, an economic policy initiative launched at the Brookings Institution to provide a platform for a broad range of leading economic thinkers to inject innovative and pragmatic policy options into the American debate.

His next point of call was his first tour of duty at the American Treasury Department when in 2009, he became a Deputy Executive Secretary to Secretary Timothy F. Geithner.

In 2010, Wally became the first Chief of Staff at the newly established Consumer Financial Protection Bureau serving under Elizabeth Warren, who is now a US Senator from Massachusetts and a major contender for the Democratic Party’s presidential ticket in the last election. It was Warren who had come up with the idea for the consumer bureau and was picked by President Obama to oversee the agency’s establishment.

While at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, Adeyemo contributed to the laying of a strong foundation for the Federal agency to effectively act as the true protector of US consumers.

Adeyemo was back at the Treasury Department as Assistant Secretary for International Markets and Development, going on to become Deputy Chief of Staff to Secretary Jacob J. Lew. His roles included being a major negotiator in the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership, where a deal was brokered to ensure greater transparency and enforcement of foreign exchange policy.

The Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement, a free trade treaty was signed by Obama in 2016 but abandoned by Trump before it came into force.

“He put together an approach that frankly has withstood the test of time, even though TPP has not had US participation. It became the model of how currency issues were dealt with in subsequent trade agreements,” Lew said in an interview.

In November 2014, Adeyemo;’s nomination by President Obama as Assistant Secretary of the Treasury for International Markets and Development was withdrawn by the President when The senate Committee on banking, Housing and Urban Affairs did not advance his nomination to the full Senate.

In 2015 Wally went to work in President Barack Obama’s inner circle. This signifies his rise to power and coming into the limelight in the US. He became Obama’s International Economic Adviser on the National Security Council serving as Deputy National Security Advisor and the Deputy Director of the National Economic Council.

While serving at these posts, Wally represented Obama at some G7 summits and the G20 international forums while being involved in coordinating the policymaking process on international finance, trade and investment, energy and environmental issues of the Obama Administration. He was also a Senior Advisor on Economics Programs at the Center for Strategy & International Studies.

When the Democrats lost the White House to Trump’s Republican, Wally was appointed a Senior Advisor and Interim Chief of Staff to Larry Fink, the Chief Executive of BlackRock Inc, the world’s largest asset manager, where he worked between May 2017 and December 2019.

In 2020, he was appointed President of the Barack Obama Foundation, a non-profit organisation that focuses on inspiring and empowering people to change their world for the better regardless of their race, gender, and socioeconomic status. Adeyemo was in charge of the day-to-day operations and implementation of its strategic plan.

Adeyemo, who joined the Democratic Party at an early age has been an integral part of many presidential bids in the party. He was a key part of John Kerry’s presidential campaign when at age 23 he was charged with inspiring African-American voters in California. He also participated in the presidential campaigns of John Edwards and Barack Obama.

And in 2021, he became the number two man at the US Treasury Department.

This was indeed a meteoric rise for the baby who left Nigeria, just less than forty years ago for America. A former colleague, Jason Furman, who was Obama’s Chief Economic Adviser, was one of those who hold him in high esteem.

“Wally Adeyemo was one of the stars of the Obama Administration.

“He impressed everyone he met with his intelligence, great judgment and kindness.

“I worked with him on the US engagement through the G20, US economic policy with China, and a range of other international economic issues. President Obama would consistently turn to him for advice on all of those topics,” said Furman, who is now a Professor of Economic Policy at Harvard University.

When Adeyemo’s appointment by Biden was criticised in some circle because of his role in the trans-Pacific Agreement and his work at BlackRock, some were quick to jump into Wally’s defence.

Many believe the firm, BlackRock was strategically placing its alumni in government to continue strengthening its holds on American’s financial circle.

But Jeff Hauser of the CEPR think tank, who though criticises BlackRock’s influence and the crisscrossing of public and private sectors in Adeyemo’s career, said the fact that former Treasury Secretary Geithner, ‘who was a bank-friendly treasury secretary’ and Senator Elizabeth Warren, ‘America’s most ferocious opponent of excessive bank power’ supported Adeyemo’s working at BlackRock signifies the “incredible competence” of Adeyemo.

And that simply was the reason why wally Adeyemo is a high ranking public official in United States.

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