The Federal Reserve System (also known as the Federal Reserve, and informally as the Fed) is the central banking system of the United States. It was created on December 23, 1913 with the enactment of the Federal Reserve Act largely in response to a series of financial panics, particularly a severe Panic of 1907|panic in 1907 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6. Over time, the roles and responsibilities of the Federal Reserve System have expanded and its structure has evolved 7, 8. Events such as the Great Depression were major factors leading to changes in the system 9.
The Congress established three key objectives for monetary policy—maximum employment, stable prices, and moderate long-term interest rates—in the Federal Reserve Act. The first two objectives are sometimes referred to as the Federal Reserve's dual mandate 10. Its duties have expanded over the years, and today, according to official Federal Reserve documentation, include conducting the nation's monetary policy, supervising and regulating banking institutions, maintaining the stability of the financial system and providing financial services to depository institutions, the U.S. government, and foreign official institutions 11 . The Fed also conducts research into the economy and releases numerous publications, such as the Beige Book.
The Federal Reserve System's structure is composed of the presidentially appointed Federal Reserve Board of Governors|Board of Governors (or Federal Reserve Board), the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC), twelve regional Federal Reserve Banks located in major cities throughout the nation, numerous privately owned U.S. member banks and various advisory councils 12, 13, 14. The FOMC is the committee responsible for setting monetary policy and consists of all seven members of the Board of Governors and the twelve regional bank presidents, though only five bank presidents vote at any given time. The Federal Reserve System has both private and public components, and was designed to serve the interests of both the general public and private bankers. The result is a structure that is considered unique among central banks. It is also unusual in that an entity outside of the central bank, namely the United States Department of the Treasury, creates the currency used 15.
According to the Board of Governors, the Federal Reserve is independent within government in that "its monetary policy decisions do not have to be approved by the President or anyone else in the executive or legislative branches of government." Its authority is derived from statutes enacted by the U.S. Congress and the System is subject to congressional oversight. The members of the Board of Governors, including its chairman and vice-chairman, are chosen by the President of the United States|President and confirmed by the Senate. The government also exercises some control over the Federal Reserve by appointing and setting the salaries of the system's highest-level employees. Thus the Federal Reserve has both private and public aspects 16, 17, 18, 19. The U.S. Government receives all of the system's annual profits, after a statutory dividend of 6% on member banks' capital investment is paid, and an account surplus is maintained. In 2010, the Federal Reserve made a profit of $82 billion and transferred $79 billion to the U.S. Treasury 20. This was followed at the end of 2011 with a transfer of $77 billion in profits to the U.S. Treasury Department 21.