Two of the 12 regional Federal Reserve Bank presidents have resigned following disclosures about stock activity in 2020 that raised questions about insider trading in a year when they helped create sweeping U.S. economic policies in response to the covid-19 pandemic.
Critics say that policies helped elevate stock prices and benefited richer Americans, including themselves.
Eric Rosengren, president of the Boston Federal Reserve, gave notice that he will retire this week, citing health problems. He headed the bank for 14 years and was due to retire in June.
Hours after Rosengren’s announcement, Robert Kaplan, president of the Dallas Federal Reserve Bank, said on Monday that he will quit Oct. 8 to eliminate any “distraction” to the central bank related to his personal investment activities, Reuters reported.
Both men traded in securities while deciding U.S. monetary policy. The customary ethical standard by Fed officials is to buy and hold diversified mutual funds, wrote Pam Martens and Russ Martens, who operate the financial news website Wall Street On Parade.
Rosengren disclosed stakes in four real estate investment trusts with multiple sales and purchases in those and other securities. The investments raised questions because Rosengren has warned the public about the risks in commerical real estate. He has also advocated for the Fed to scale back its purchases of mortgage-backed securities to avoid overheating the housing market, Bloomberg reported.
Kaplan revealed multiple million-dollar trades in individual stocks in 2020 including Apple, Amazon and Delta Airlines. He owned 32 individual stock, fund or alternative asset holdings including 27 valued at more than $1 million at the end of 2020, according to the disclosure, CNBC reported.
Both Fed presidents said earlier this month that they would sell their personal stock holdings by Sept. 30 and not trade stock for the remainder of their tenure to avoid the appearance of a conflict of interest.
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Kaplan has been “trading like an aggressive hedge fund kingpin” for five years at the Dallas Fed while simultaneously having access to non-public, market-moving information, Wall Street On Parade reported. The Fed’s FOMC (Federal Open Market Committee) sets interest rates and makes confidential decisions about the growth of the U.S. money supply.
Fed Chairman Jerome Powell has asked staff to examine internal ethics rules for financial holdings and activities by senior Fed officials to identify “ways to further tighten those rules and standards,” Bloomberg reported.
“No one on the FOMC is happy to be in this situation, to be having these questions raised,” Powell said during a Sept. 22 press conference. “It’s something we take very, very seriously … I’m determined that we will rise to the moment and handle it in ways that will stand up over time.”
The job of the 12 regional Federal Reserve Banks includes conducting national monetary policy, supervising and regulating banks, maintaining financial stability, and providing banking services.
The Federal Reserve Board of Governors reconfirmed all 12 Fed presidents’ appointments in January for another five years effective March 1, 2021 after “a rigorous process to inform their reappointment decisions.”
“This ‘rigorous’ process apparently did not think trading like a hedge fund kingpin was a disqualifier,” wrote Martens and Martens.