By James Kwak
Bernie Sanders’s “audit the Fed” amendment, which expands the ability of the Government Accountability Office to review Federal Reserve operations, seems to be gaining some momentum. Opponents, including the Obama administration and Fed chair Ben Bernanke, are mounting a defensive effort. There are two main arguments that I have heard.
The first is that publicizing which banks take advantage of Fed lending facilities will stigmatize those banks and could increase panic in the midst of a financial crisis. I’m not particularly convinced by this argument, since most supporters of the amendment are fine with releasing such information with a delay. Section 1152(a)(2) of the amendment eliminates the provision in 31 U.S.C. 714(b) that shields from audit monetary policy decision-making and financial transactions by Federal Reserve banks, but replaces it with this:
“Audits of the Federal Reserve Board and Federal reserve banks shall not include unreleased transcripts or minutes of meetings of the Board of Governors or of the Federal Open Market Committee. To the extent that an audit deals with individual market actions, records related to such actions shall only be released by the Comptroller General after 180 days have elapsed following the effective date of such actions.”