Friday, October 21, 2011

I'm shocked, SHOCKED! GAO Reports Conflict of Interest at the Fed!

Who would have believed it?  It's shocking!  A new GAO report finds rampant conflicts of interest among the Directors of the Federal Reserve System.
From the creation of the Federal Reserve System, the Federal Reserve Act has required the Reserve Banks to include Class A directors on their boards to be representative of the member banks, as each of the Reserve Banks is owned by the member banks in its district. While Class A directors are not required to be officers or employees of member banks, in practice, most Class A directors are officers or directors of member banks in the district. The requirement to have representatives of member banks creates an appearance of a conflict of interest because, as noted previously, the Federal Reserve System has supervisory authority over state-chartered member banks and bank holding companies. Conflicts of interest involving directors have been historically addressed through both federal law and Federal Reserve System policies and procedures, such as by defining roles and responsibilities and implementing codes of conduct to identify, manage, and mitigate potential conflicts. Nevertheless, directors’ affiliations with financial firms and former directors’ business relationships with Reserve Banks continue to pose reputational risks to the Federal Reserve System. When the Federal Reserve System played a key role in providing assistance to financial institutions during the 2007-2009 financial crisis, Reserve Bank board governance came under scrutiny because, among other things, a number of director-affiliated banks and nonbank financial institutions participated in the Federal Reserve System’s emergency programs. Since then, Congress, the Federal Reserve Board, and Reserve Banks have made a number of changes to the policies and procedures that address Reserve Bank governance. However, without more complete documentation of the directors’ roles and responsibilities with regard to the supervision and regulation functions, as well as increased public disclosure on governance practices to enhance accountability and transparency, questions about Reserve Bank governance will remain.

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