Wendy Lee Gramm was born in Hawaii in 1945 and is of mixed ancestry, including Hawaiian and Korean heritage. She is considered by some to be an “Asian American Wonder Woman.”
Her BA is from Wellesley College (1966). Her PhD. in Economics was awarded by Northwestern University (1971). She met her husband, former Senator Phil Gramm, while being interviewed for a position at Texas A & M University, where he behaved in a questionable fashion.* She became his second wife a year later, in 1970. They have 2 sons, Marshall and Jeff.
She taught at Texas A &;M for 8 years, and is currently on the Board of Regents, in addition to serving on several committees. Her stellar academic credentials include being a Distinguished Senior Fellow and Director of the Regulatory Studies Program of the Mercatus Center at George Mason University in Virginia.
During the Reagan Administration, she headed the FTC’s Division of Consumer Protection Economics Bureau, and was an advisor in the Office of Management and Budget (1985-1988). As a reward for fervent deregulation, Reagan made her the chairperson of the Commodities Futures Trading Commission (1988-1993). She joined the Texas Public Policy Foundation in 2000.
She has been on the Board of Directors of several companies, including Enron, Iowa Beef Processors (IBP), Invesco Funds, Longitude, the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, State Farm Insurance Companies and Independent Women’s Forum.
Her position at Enron came under scrutiny from the very beginning. Not only did she join the board 5 weeks after leaving the Commodities Futures Trading Commission, but this was soon after she had pushed through a “regulatory exemption” to Enron’s benefit. Furthermore, she made a great deal of money from her relationship with Enron, despite also claiming over a half million dollars in paper losses from accounts tied to the value of Enron Stock — the Gramms have avoided common stock since 1988, to avoid perceived conflicts of interest. Deepening the controversy is over $100,000 in contributions Enron made to Senator Gramm’s re-election campaigns. As the story of Enron continued to unfold, the Senator chose to retire, and not run for a 4th term. Since the Senator was a high profile proponent of reduced government oversight of energy trading and was against conflict of interest rules regarding accountants providing consulting services, it is reasonable to assume he at least considered the potential media frenzy over the roles he and his wife played at Enron. As an Enron director, she is named in lawsuits against the now bankrupt company. Despite the high profile of the Enron disaster, Wendy Gramm is also on the board of the equally controversial IBP, a huge meat processing concern. It is the world’s largest butcher, the nations largest slaughterer of both beef (26%) and pork (12%). It also has a history of union busting, attempting to control wholesale cattle prices, using illegal labor, flouting workplace and food safety guidelines, and making deals with the mafia. IBP — now known as Tyson Fresh Meats since acquisition by Tyson Foods — is not surprisingly against more regulation and inspection. Their most recent 10K filed with the SEC lists 5 pages of legal proceedings, yet only 3 pages of “Selected Financial Data.” These myriad legal concerns are broken broadly into “Wage and Hour/Labor Matters,” “Environmental Matters,” “Securities Matters” (only 3 paragraphs), “IBP Stockholder and Merger Agreement Related Litigation,” and “General Matters.”
In January 2002, she was named the Clean Air Trust’s “Clean Air Villain of the Month” in recognition of her activities at the Mercatus Center. Specifically, “Gramm’s Mercatus Center was responsible for no fewer than five of the eight EPA rules singled out by OMB for “high priority” treatment — including standards for arsenic in drinking water. Altogether, OMB noted, Mercatus had called for a re-assessment of no fewer than 44 federal regulations — including national public health standards for smog and soot, as well as standards for tailpipe pollution from cars and sport utility vehicles, low-sulfur gasoline, big diesel trucks and diesel fuel….”
She has also received the Financial Executive of the Year award from the Financial Management Association.
If you should happen to meet Wendy Gramm and have a few minutes of her time, ask a couple of questions for me: “Did deregulation of energy trading make the Great Northeast Blackout better or worse?” and “Why is it that you can eat raw beef in a third world nation like Ethiopia, but you have to cook it tasteless for it to be safe in America, one of the most advanced nations on Earth?”
*Saying “As a single member of the faculty, I’d be very interested in having you come to Texas A&M” to a job applicant these days is much more likely to get you sued than married. Maybe things were different in 1970.