The New York headquarters of the Federal Reserve is either home to 6,200 tons of gold, a bunch of fake gold bars, or next to no gold, depending on whom you ask. The Fed has long claimed its vaults hold the world's largest gold stockpile worth as much as $260 billion. But some "wonder if the bank is hiding something about what it's hiding," in the words of the Wall Street Journal. As one precious-metals analyst explains, the Fed has "never in its history provided any proof" of its gold stores beneath lower Manhattan. Visitors see only a sample of bars—which some suspect could be gold-plated tungsten of an equal weight—and only auditors and account holders are allowed to review records; the last audit of Fed gold, involving 367 samples, was in 2012.
Raising further suspicions are recent gold prices. Based on those, one investment strategist claims "there has to have been a central bank spewing their gold into the market." Some gold investors believe the Fed could be secretly lending out its gold to keep prices down, though a Fed spokesperson says it doesn't own any of the gold in its headquarters—most is owned by foreign governments—and "does not use it in any way for any purposes including loaning or leasing it out." Outsiders may not get any more clarity unless the "Audit the Fed" bill is passed. Introduced by Sen. Rand Paul, it would allow the Government Accountability Office to audit the Fed and review its decisions on interest rates, reports CNNMoney. Don't hold your breath: It has yet to face a full vote in the House or Senate. (Read more Federal Reserve stories.)