Fed Rule Writing Shrouded in Secrecy

Public meetings are rare, and dissent isn't disclosed

By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff

Posted Feb 21, 2012 11:27 AM CST

(Newser) – The Federal Reserve has been busily rewriting the rules of the financial system for years now, and it's been doing almost all of it behind closed doors. The Fed has held 47 votes on new regulations since Dodd-Frank was passed in July 2010, and only two of those were at public meetings; in the rest, votes were cast via email, and the details of those votes disclosed to the public only last week when the Wall Street Journal requested them. The Journal notes that while the closed meetings are legal, they do represent a sea change: In the 1980s and 1990s, the Fed held as many as 31 public meetings annually.

Fed officials say public meetings tend to be scripted affairs that shine little light on the process anyway, and note that they're still giving the public as many as 90 days to comment on rules. But among the Fed's recent discloses was a dissent from one Fed governor on a regulation related to the Volcker rule; it was made public Feb. 14, the day after the public comment period on the proposal had closed, depriving public commenters of a valuable perspective. "I can't think of any justification" for that, says the official directing the Fed's rule-writing work. Click to read the Journal's entire piece.

Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, Feb. 2, 2012, before the House Budget Committee.
Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, Feb. 2, 2012, before the House Budget Committee.   (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
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People have a right to know and hear the discussion and hear the presentations and the reasoning for these rules. All of the other agencies propose and approve these rules in public meetings. - Sheila Blair, ex-FDIC chair

Compared to other waves
of rule-making, this is
a tsunami. - John Weinberg, head of research at the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond, on the 250 active rule projects the Fed is working on following the financial crisis and Dodd-Frank

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