Although the Federal Reserve has been criticized for its unprecedented efforts to fight the 2008 financial crisis, former Fed chief Ben S. Bernanke said Tuesday the central bank could have done more.
"Although we have been very aggressive, I think on the monetary policy front we could have been even more aggressive," Bernanke told a bankers conference in Abu Dhabi, according to Reuters.
The speech marked his first public comments since stepping down Feb. 2 after eight years as Fed chairman.
Now that financial markets no longer hang on his every word, Bernanke joked at the conference that, "I can say whatever I want."
He also can earn a lot of money for saying it.
Citing unnamed sources, Reuters said Bernanke received at least $250,000 for his speech at the event, which was hosted by the National Bank of Abu Dhabi.
That amount is more than his $199,700 salary from the Fed for all of last year. The sources told Reuters the fee was similar to what former Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan was paid to speak at an Abu Dhabi event in 2008.
Bernanke, who is writing a memoir about his tenure at the Fed, said he now was in "a mode of reflection."
He described the United States as "overconfident" before the 2008 financial crisis and the Fed's unprecedented efforts put it in a "terrible" political situation amid criticism that the central bank was unfairly bailing out giant financial institutions.
Still, he said the Fed could have taken additional steps at the time.
"We could have done some things on the margin to mitigate somewhat the crisis," he said.
But, he added, "we did good in a very complicated situation and in a very complex political situation, and the result is what it is."
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