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The Federal Reserve—the central bank of the United States—is the most powerful peacetime bureaucracy in the federal government. Under the chairmanship of Alan Greenspan (1987-2006), the Fed achieved near mythical status for its part in managing the economy, and Greenspan was lauded as a genius. Few seemed to notice or care that Fed officials operated secretly with almost no public accountability. There was a courageous exception to this lack of oversight, however: Henry B. Gonzalez (D-TX)—chairman of the U.S. House of Representatives Financial Services (banking) Committee. In Deception and Abuse at the Fed, Robert Auerbach, a former banking committee investigator, recounts major instances of Fed mismanagement and abuse of power that were exposed by Rep. Gonzalez, including: Blocking Congress and the public from holding powerful Fed officials accountable by falsely declaring—for 17 years—it had no transcripts of its meetings; Manipulating the stock and bond markets in 1994 under cover of a preemptive strike against inflation; Allowing $5.5 billion to be sent to Saddam Hussein from a small Atlanta branch of a foreign bank—the result of faulty bank examination practices by the Fed; Stonewalling Congressional investigations and misleading the Washington Post about the $6,300 found on the Watergate burglars. Auerbach provides documentation of these and other abuses at the Fed, which confirms Rep. Gonzalez's belief that no government agency should be allowed to operate with the secrecy and independence in which the Federal Reserve has shrouded itself. Auerbach concludes with recommendations for specific, broad-ranging reforms that will make the Fed accountable to the government and the people of the United States.
The independence of the Federal Reserve is considered a cornerstone of its identity, crucial for keeping monetary policy decisions free of electoral politics. But do we really understand what is meant by "Federal Reserve independence"? Using scores of examples from the Fed's rich history, The Power and Independence of the Federal Reserve shows that much common wisdom about the nation's central bank is inaccurate. Legal scholar and financial historian Peter Conti-Brown provides an in-depth look at the Fed's place in government, its internal governance structure, and its relationships to such individuals and groups as the president, Congress, economists, and bankers. Exploring how the Fed regulates the global economy and handles its own internal politics, and how the law does—and does not—define the Fed's power, Conti-Brown captures and clarifies the central bank's defining complexities. He examines the foundations of the Federal Reserve Act of 1913, which established a system of central banks, and the ways that subsequent generations have redefined the organization. Challenging the notion that the Fed Chair controls the organization as an all-powerful technocrat, he explains how institutions and individuals—within and outside of government—shape Fed policy. Conti-Brown demonstrates that the evolving mission of the Fed—including systemic risk regulation, wider bank supervision, and as a guardian against inflation and deflation—requires a reevaluation of the very way the nation's central bank is structured. Investigating how the Fed influences and is influenced by ideologies, personalities, law, and history, The Power and Independence of the Federal Reserve offers a uniquely clear and timely picture of one of the most important institutions in the United States and the world.

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