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CNBC Researchers Question Propriety of Securities Held by Federal Reserve Officials

After CNBC researchers posed questions about the propriety of the securities held by top Federal Reserve officials, Jerome Powell, ordered a review of the Central Bank’s ethics rules. The order was in response to criticisms and concerns that arose with regard to security holdings of top Federal Reserve officials, including Mr. Powell who is currently the Board Chairman of the Federal Reserve Bank.

The results of the initial review indicate that Federal Reserve officials owning individual securities does not appear to violate the Fed’s code of conduct. Still the questions posed by the CNBC regarding the holdings gave rise to concerns over federal policies regarding conflict of interest and the Central Bank’s supervision of its officials. After all, the federal government’s code of conduct mentions that government officials should be careful in conducting or dealing in transactions that could create a conflict between serving public interest and their personal interests since government officials are privy to information that can affect financial systems.

One of CNBC’s questions concerns the Fed’s ethics rules on what are considered as permissible activities and financial holdings of senior Fed officials. CNBC also questioned why the Central Bank did not ban Fed officials from holding, buying, and selling last year. at the height of the pandemic. It was also the when the Trump government expanded the types of assets it would purchase in order to stabilize the securities market that was affected by the COVID-19 outbreak.

Federal Reserve Officials Who Own and/or Traded Individual Securities

Federal Reserve officials who either owns or traded individual securities include Federal Reserve Bank Chairman Jeremy Powell, Boston Fed President Eric Rosengren, and Richmond Fed President Thomas Barkin.

Chairman Powell has held municipal bonds worth about $1.25 million and $2.5 million, which represented only a small portion of Chairman’s total reported assets. Even as these municipal bonds were bought by Powell before 2019, the government purchased $5 billion worth of municipal bonds that included municipal bonds held by the Powell family trust since 2016 in the state of Illinois.

Boston Fed President Eric Rosengren has real estate investment trusts worth $151,000 to $800,000, which are securities supported by real estate mortgages. Rosengren had around 37 separate trades in four rela estate investment trusts (REITS) included in the Feds $700 billion infusion in mortgage-backed securities.

Lastly, Richmond Fed President Thomas Barkin held $1.35 million up to $3 million in individual corporate bonds including of Pepsi, Eli Lilly, and Home Depot, before 2020. Last year, the Fed bought $46.5 billion worth of corporate bonds when it rolled out a corporate bond-buying facility.