Federal Banking Agency Audit Act enacted in 1978 as Public Law 95-320 and Section 31 USC 714 of U.S. Code establish that the Federal Reserve may be audited by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) 1. The GAO has authority to audit check-processing, currency storage and shipments, and some regulatory and bank examination functions, however there are restrictions to what the GAO may in fact audit. Audits of the Reserve Board and Federal Reserve banks may not include:
- transactions for or with a foreign central bank or government, or nonprivate international financing organization;
- deliberations, decisions, or actions on monetary policy matters;
- transactions made under the direction of the Federal Open Market Committee; or
- a part of a discussion or communication among or between members of the Board of Governors and officers and employees of the Federal Reserve System related to items (1), (2), or (3) 2, 3.
The financial crisis which began in 2007, corporate bailouts, and concerns over the Fed's secrecy have brought renewed concern regarding ability of the Fed to effectively manage the national monetary system 4. A July 2009 Gallup Poll found only 30% Americans thought the Fed was doing a good or excellent job, a rating even lower than that for the Internal Revenue Service, which drew praise from 40% 5. The Federal Reserve Transparency Act was introduced by congressman Ron Paul in order to obtain a more detailed audit of the Fed. The Fed has since hired Linda Robertson who headed the Washington lobbying office of Enron Corp. and was adviser to all three of the Clinton administration's Treasury secretaries 6, 7, 8, 9.
The Board of Governors in the Federal Reserve System has a number of supervisory and regulatory responsibilities in the U.S. banking system, but not complete responsibility. A general description of the types of regulation and supervision involved in the U.S. banking system is given by the Federal Reserve 10:
The Board also plays a major role in the supervision and regulation of the U.S. banking system. It has supervisory responsibilities for state-chartered banks 11 that are members of the Federal Reserve System, bank holding companies (companies that control banks), the foreign activities of member banks, the U.S. activities of foreign banks, and Edge Act and "agreement corporations" (limited-purpose institutions that engage in a foreign banking business). The Board and, under delegated authority, the Federal Reserve Banks, supervise approximately 900 state member banks and 5,000 bank holding companies. Other federal agencies also serve as the primary federal supervisors of commercial banks; the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency supervises national banks, and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation supervises state banks that are not members of the Federal Reserve System.
Some regulations issued by the Board apply to the entire banking industry, whereas others apply only to member banks, that is, state banks that have chosen to join the Federal Reserve System and national banks, which by law must be members of the System. The Board also issues regulations to carry out major federal laws governing consumer credit protection, such as the Truth in Lending, Equal Credit Opportunity, and Home Mortgage Disclosure Acts. Many of these consumer protection regulations apply to various lenders outside the banking industry as well as to banks.
Members of the Board of Governors are in continual contact with other policy makers in government. They frequently testify before congressional committees on the economy, monetary policy, banking supervision and regulation, consumer credit protection, financial markets, and other matters.
The Board has regular contact with members of the President's Council of Economic Advisers and other key economic officials. The Chairman also meets from time to time with the President of the United States and has regular meetings with the Secretary of the Treasury. The Chairman has formal responsibilities in the international arena as well.