Week InReview: February 28, 2020
Who owns the Fed?
The question comes from foil-hatted conspiracists, good government advocates, and sober academics: Who owns the New York Federal Reserve Bank?
Under the Federal Reserve Act of 1913, each of the 12 regional reserve banks of the Federal Reserve System is owned by its member banks, who originally ponied up the capital to keep them running.
The number of capital shares they subscribe to is based upon a percentage of each member bank's capital and surplus.
But the New York Fed – by far the most important of the regional banks – as a matter of policy has previously not disclosed the capital share holdings of its 70-plus member banks.
Now, thanks to a Freedom of Information Act request filed late last year by Institutional Investor, we know the truth.
The big reveal for year-end 2018: Citibank, the No. 1 institution on the roster, held 87.9 million New York Federal Reserve Bank shares – or 42.8 percent of the total.
The No. 2 holder stockholder was JPMorgan Chase Bank, with 60.6 million shares, equal to 29.5 percent of the total. In other words, the two banks together control nearly three-quarters of the regional bank's capital shares.
Each bank, after all, has only one vote when it comes to electing bank directors (their only shareholder responsibility) regardless of stock holdings. And New York Fed shares cannot be traded, shorted, or pledged as collateral.
Read entire Week InReview: February 28, 2020