Talk:Federal Reserve System/FAQ

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The following Q and A was copied from Federal Reserve FAQ

Q:What is the Federal Reserve System?
A:The Federal Reserve System, often referred to as the Federal Reserve or simply "the Fed," is the central bank of the United States. It was created by Congress to provide the nation with a safer, more flexible, and more stable monetary and financial system. Over the years, its role has evolved and expanded.
Q:When was the Federal Reserve created?
A:The Federal Reserve was created on December 23, 1913, with the signing of the Federal Reserve Act by President Woodrow Wilson. The act had been drafted as House Resolution 7837 by Representative Carter Glass (D-VA), incoming chairman of the House Banking and Currency Committee.
Q:What are the Federal Reserve's responsibilities?
A:Today, the Federal Reserve's responsibilities fall into four general areas:
  • conducting the nation's monetary policy by influencing money and credit conditions in the economy in pursuit of full employment and stable prices
  • supervising and regulating banking institutions to ensure the safety and soundness of the nation's banking and financial system and to protect the credit rights of consumers
  • maintaining the stability of the financial system and containing systemic risk that may arise in financial markets
  • providing certain financial services to the U.S. government, to the public, to financial institutions, and to foreign official institutions, including playing a major role in operating the nation's payments systems
  • For an overview of the Federal Reserve and its responsibilities, see The Federal Reserve System: Purposes and Functions.
Q:How is the Federal Reserve System structured?
A:The Federal Reserve System has a structure designed by Congress to give it a broad perspective on the economy and on economic activity in all parts of the nation. It is a federal system, composed basically of a central, governmental agency--the Board of Governors--in Washington, D.C., and twelve regional Federal Reserve Banks, located in major cities throughout the nation. These components share responsibility for supervising and regulating certain financial institutions and activities; for providing banking services to depository institutions and to the federal government; and for ensuring that consumers receive adequate information and fair treatment in their business with the banking system.
A major component of the System is the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC), which is made up of the members of the Board of Governors, the president of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, and presidents of four other Federal Reserve Banks, who serve on a rotating basis. The FOMC oversees open market operations, which is the main tool used by the Federal Reserve to influence money market conditions and the growth of money and credit.
Q:Who owns the Federal Reserve?
A:The Federal Reserve System is not "owned" by anyone and is not a private, profit-making institution. Instead, it is an independent entity within the government, having both public purposes and private aspects.
As the nation's central bank, the Federal Reserve derives its authority from the U.S. Congress. It is considered an independent central bank because its decisions do not have to be ratified by the President or anyone else in the executive or legislative branch of government, it does not receive funding appropriated by Congress, and the terms of the members of the Board of Governors span multiple presidential and congressional terms. However, the Federal Reserve is subject to oversight by Congress, which periodically reviews its activities and can alter its responsibilities by statute. Also, the Federal Reserve must work within the framework of the overall objectives of economic and financial policy established by the government. Therefore, the Federal Reserve can be more accurately described as "independent within the government."
The twelve regional Federal Reserve Banks, which were established by Congress as the operating arms of the nation's central banking system, are organized much like private corporations--possibly leading to some confusion about "ownership." For example, the Reserve Banks issue shares of stock to member banks. However, owning Reserve Bank stock is quite different from owning stock in a private company. The Reserve Banks are not operated for profit, and ownership of a certain amount of stock is, by law, a condition of membership in the System. The stock may not be sold, traded, or pledged as security for a loan; dividends are, by law, 6 percent per year.
Q:Is the Federal Reserve System "government" or "private"?
A:The Federal Reserve System consists of several entities.
  1. The Board of Governors is the main governing body of the Federal Reserve System. It is a government agency, whose members are appointed by the President of the United States.
  2. The Federal Open Market Committee sets monetary policy for the United States. It is a government agency, and consists of the Board of Governors and 5 regional Federal Reserve Bank presidents.
  3. The 12 regional Federal Reserve Banks are tax-exempt independent federally-created instrumentalities, whose profits belong to the federal government. The regional Federal Reserve Bank presidents are nominated by the regional Bank's board of directors, but must be approved by the Board of Governors.
  4. The member banks of the regional Federal Reserve Banks are commercial banks. They own 'stock' in the regional Federal Reserve Bank but cannot change the charter or organization of each Federal Reserve Bank. Member banks receive a 6% return on their initial investment in their regional Federal Reserve Bank, and elect six of the nine members of the Federal Reserve Bank's boards of directors (three of whom are bankers, while another three are members of the general public). The other three members are directly appointed by the Board of Governors. There are many member banks, most of whom are privately owned or publicly traded companies.
Q:How is the Federal Reserve funded?
A:The Federal Reserve's income is derived primarily from the interest on U.S. government securities that it has acquired through open market operations. Other sources of income are the interest on foreign currency investments held by the System; fees received for services provided to depository institutions, such as check clearing, funds transfers, and automated clearinghouse operations; and interest on loans to depository institutions (the rate on which is the so-called discount rate). After paying its expenses, the Federal Reserve turns the rest of its earnings over to the U.S. Treasury.
Q:Why did Congress want the Federal Reserve to be relatively independent?
A:The intent of Congress in shaping the Federal Reserve Act was to keep politics out of monetary policy. The System is independent of other branches and agencies of government. It is self-financed and therefore is not subject to the congressional budgetary process.
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