By Adam Andrzejewski
It’s hard for American citizens to follow the money in Washington, D.C. if the Federal Reserve – the group overseeing its printing – isn’t being transparent.
While the salaries of federal employees are subject to transparency, the Federal Reserve – otherwise known as the Fed – is claiming that it has a right to keep 98.4-percent of its salaries secret.
The one, twenty, and hundred dollar bills are all examples of our currency – officially called Federal Reserve notes. In fact, the U.S. Treasury prints all the currency in circulation at the instruction of the Federal Reserve Board of Governors and the 12 Federal Reserve member banks. The full faith and credit of the U.S. government backs those bills.
Recently, our auditors at OpenTheBooks.com filed a Freedom of Information Act request for the complete payroll information of the Fed: all employees, their names, employer Zip Codes, hire dates, base salaries, bonus pay, overtime pay, gross annual wages and position titles for year 2020.
The Fed rejected most of our request. The agency produced information on only 369 out of its 23,000 employees. The thin disclosure included only those staffers making $225,000 or more and working at the Federal Reserve Board of Governors.
This means that 98.4-percent of the Federal Reserve payroll remains hidden from the American people. In addition to the Board of Governors, the Fed is comprised of 12 regional Federal Reserve Banks, and the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC).
No disclosure was provided for the Federal Reserve Banks and the FOMC employees. In withholding the data, the Fed claims:
“In general, with respect to requests for personal information such as this one, the agency’s burden to justify withholding such information is reduced as compared to other types of information. The privacy interest is weighed against the public interest, keeping in mind that the underlying purpose behind the FOIA is to shed light on agency action and the performance of its statutory duties.” (Emphasis added.)
We strongly disagree. Federal Reserve notes, our legal tender, are the basis of our economy. The Fed’s balance sheet ballooned from $4.1 trillion to $8.2 trillion in assets during the pandemic. There is no clearer “public interest” to justify transparency – from the Board of Governors, no less.
There are roughly 3,000 employees working for the Board itself. The Board, within its own purview, disclosed only 13-percent of its own staff and withheld name and salary information, including overtime and position titles, for all employees earning less than $225,000.
Here is a breakdown of the production for the 369 employees for whom we received information:
- The Board chairman, currently Jerome Powell, makes $203,500, while other Board members make $183,100, an amount set by Congress.
- Mark Bialek, inspector general for the Board and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, has a base salary of $350,960, set by federal law.
- Among the 369 employees whose base pay was provided, the highest salary was $286,700 and that amount was earned by 16 people at the Fed.
Review the Fed’s thin payroll release here and review the top 16 most highly compensated employees earning $286,700 per year.
The Federal Reserve is acting like it’s unaccountable to the American people. It’s forgetting that its public employees are a matter of public record and must be disclosed publicly.
So, maybe, the movement to “audit the Fed” should start with its payroll.
Audit the Fed Legislation by U.S. Senator Rand Paul (R-KY)
What Is The Federal Reserve? by Information Station
The Federal Reserve Explained by USAFacts.org