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The FED Updates America…Finally

John on April 8, 2009 at 8:59 am

Ever since Morgen and I raised the question about FSOB meetings on March 19th, I’ve made contact with the press offices of all five departments whose chairpersons participate in the meetings.

On March 23rd I got an apparent confirmation that no meetings had been held in the form of an e-mail from the Federal Reserve. It said:

The information you are looking for can be found on the U.S. Treasury’s website: I hope this information was helpful.

Actually, no it wasn’t helpful at all. I’d asked was for information on any meetings since January 15th. The link provided only showed meeting minutes up to that date. For two weeks I continued sending e-mails and making calls to no avail.

But persistence paid off. Finally, this Monday a highly placed individual in the administration responded to one of my queries. This individual indicated that the FinSOB had indeed held meetings since January 15th. However minutes of the meetings were not available because the FED had not bothered to make them available to Treasury for posting on its website.

After one call and one e-mail to the FED seeking comment, I received this response from their public affairs office:

For your planning purposes, we expect that Financial Stability Oversight Board meeting minutes will be posted shortly on the site.

That was late Monday. And sure enough, new meeting minutes have been posted on Treasury’s website as of this morning. Coincidence? Looking at the dates, these meetings took place 6 weeks, 5 weeks and 3 weeks ago respectively. The FED certainly didn’t seem to be in a hurry to make these public before now.

Oops. Er…wait a minute. The updated website shows two meetings in March, one on March 1st and one on the 19th. However both links go to the same document, which is dated March 19th. So, yeah, I think this appears rushed all the way around. I contacted the FED once more for an explanation of the delay and so far no response.

After all this, what did we learn…FSOB meetings are gradually morphing into preview press conferences. Previous meetings of the FinSOB have lasted 60-70 minutes. The February meeting lasted 50. The March 1 meeting was 40 and the March 19 meeting was only 15 minutes long.

At each successive meeting the phrase “Using prepared materials, Treasury officials then briefed…” becomes more common. In at least two cases Treasury briefs the board on items it will be making public that day or in a few days. How is this oversight of the public’s $700 billion exactly?

It appears FinSOB has gradually become an afterthought, part of Treasury’s message coordination effort. In light of these documents, the Congressional Oversight Panel report issued yesterday seems even more significant. If FinSOB is doing less and less actual oversight and simultaneously stalling oversight by COP, who is watching out for our money?

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Category: Energy & Economy |

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