The Federal Reserve Banks’ New Transparency and Accountability Policy

In response to increasing Congressional pressure for transparency, this year the Federal Reserve Banks established a unified records access policy known as TAP (Transparency and Accountability Policy). The Banks have begun responding to public records requests under that policy. While TAP is a good start, it has some shortcomings.


For many years, the Federal Reserve Banks were widely regarded by policy makers and the public as insufficiently transparent with regards to their decisions and actions that affect the public. Despite their pivotal role in managing the nation’s banking system, these banks are viewed as quasi-private entities. They are jointly owned by local private banks, but are overseen by the Federal Reserve Board of Governors.

While the Federal Reserve Board, a federal agency, is subject to the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), the 12 Federal Reserve Banks take the position that they are exempt from the law. (Some banks such as the New York Federal Reserve Bank had their own ad hoc records access processes[1] and provided a FOIA-like process, but there was no uniformity among the banks.)  In practice, the banks simply denied the requests outright.

In contrast, nearly every other federal banking and financial oversight authority is subject to FOIA: including the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC), Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), Federal Financial Institutions Examination Council (FFIEC), Department of the Treasury, National Credit Union Administration (NCUA), Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC), and Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA).

Legislative Efforts Spur Transparency Measures

Senator Elizabeth Warren, among others, persistently highlighted the issues and  conflicts of interest arising from the Fed Banks’ opacity, and proposed legislation that would serve to make the Fed Banks more accountable.[2] Senator Warren and Senator Rick Scott publicly discussed the Federal Reserve Board’s Inspector General’s failure to hold officials accountable for violating Fed rules.[3]

Senator Warren and Senator Thom Tillis pushed for the Fed Banks to comply with the Freedom of Information Act, as part of a broader push for transparency in the Fed’s operations.[4] This arose from the Federal Reserve and Fed Banks reluctance to respond to document requests from Republican and Democratic lawmakers during a probe into trading and ethics scandals.[5] Both Republicans and Democrats in Congress accused the regional Fed Banks of stonewalling and ignoring requests for information. An August 9, 2022 letter from 11 Republican members of the Senate Banking Committee to Fed Chairman Jerome Powell said in part: “Unfortunately, obstructionism has become too common a response from the Fed and regional Fed banks — which, after all, are creatures of Congress — to congressional oversight inquiries from members in both parties.”[6]

In December 2022, Senators Warren and Patrick Toomey sponsored Senate Bill S.5300, the “Financial Regulators Transparency Act of 2022”, which applied the FOIA and the Federal Records Act of 1950 to the Federal Reserve Banks.[7] The proposed legislation stated that the Banks were prohibited from withholding records under certain commonly-invoked FOIA exemptions if the request came from the Chairman and ranking member of the House and Senate Committees that oversee financial regulation, or the Inspector General of the Federal Reserve. This was included because agencies frequently withhold records under a wide range of exemptions.

While this bill was shelved in January 2023, the Banks remained under the threat of possible legislation that would impose the FOIA on them, restricting their discretion to withhold records from their oversight Committees, journalists, researchers, businesses and the public. Consequently, the Banks opted to implement proactive measures to circumvent this scenario.

Accordingly, on December 21, 2023, the Federal Reserve Banks each announced the adoption of a uniform Transparency and Accountability Policy; each Bank published their own copy of the policy.[8]

Negative Features of the Transparency and Accountability Policy (TAP)

The preamble of the TAP emphasizes that transparency is crucial for sustaining public confidence and enhancing comprehension of the Federal Reserve Banks’ mandate and operations. This recognition of the value of transparency signifies a notable departure from the historically opaque practices of most Federal Reserve Banks.

While the TAP draws inspiration from the federal FOIA statute, it introduces several notable modifications and exclusions. First, the policy is ambiguous about the scope of records it encompasses. The policy states: “3.10. Records Subject to Disclosure. Unless otherwise exempt, records created on or after January 1, 2024, that fall into one of the following categories will be published or made available upon request.”

This provision emerged from the Fed Banks’ intention to proactively disclose more records. However, the phrasing introduces uncertainty, potentially limiting the policy’s application to records generated on or after the specified date.

This is not merely a theoretical issue. The San Francisco Fed, for instance, has explicitly stated in two different response letters dated April 2, 2024: “Furthermore, records created prior to January 1, 2024, are not subject to disclosure under TAP Section 3.10.”

Such an interpretation renders the policy largely ineffective for records predating 2024, which constitute the majority of inquiries. It also affords the Banks discretionary power, as they can choose to apply this cutoff at will.

The policy does not explicitly address how requests for pre-2024 records should be handled, creating a significant—and possibly insurmountable—loophole that contradicts the professed commitment to transparency. In contrast, the federal FOIA statute applies universally to all records, irrespective of their date of creation.

To truly embody the spirit of transparency and the goals of the TAP, the policy should unequivocally state its applicability to all Federal Reserve Bank records, without regard to their date of creation.

Second, the TAP’s administrative appeal process, termed a “request for reconsideration,” is not robust. The same office that denied the request, in consultation with the Bank’s First Vice President, also adjudicates the reconsideration.[9] This is problematic as it contravenes a fundamental tenet of administrative appeals: the appeal should not be judged by the same entity that issued the initial decision. Moreover, the policy does not specify that reconsideration decisions are made de novo, as is the case with FOIA appeals. Additionally, there appears to be no provision for judicial review of reconsideration requests. Lastly, the TAP grants only a 30-day window for submitting a reconsideration request, compared to the 90-day period provided by the federal government under FOIA.

The TAP’s reconsideration process should be restructured to ensure independent review, in line with standard administrative appeal practices.

Third, the TAP fee structure is contrary to most public records access laws which provide more favorable fee treatment to noncommercial requesters. In contrast, the TAP charges the same fees to everyone, whether a commercial requester or a noncommercial requester such as a newsmedia representative, a nonprofit organization, a school, or an individual requester.

By way of comparison, the federal Freedom of Information Act exempts noncommercial entities from review fees. Furthermore, news media and academic requesters are not charged search fees, and “all other requesters”, such as individual requesters, are charged search fees only in excess of two hours. Further, search fees are waived by law to all requesters (and duplication fees waived for newsmedia or educational requesters) if the agency takes longer than the statutory time period to respond to the request. Under FOIA, duplication fees for individual requesters are only charged in excess of 100 pages. Furthermore, most agencies have established fee thresholds that forestall overall charges under a particular amount, typically $25.

While this may not be the intent under the TAP, Federal Reserve Banks have the opportunity to impose search and review fees that could serve to deter records requests, especially for those requests that are seen as inconvenient or troublesome.

Despite these three rather significant shortcomings, other aspects of the TAP are commendably aligned with Federal FOIA regulations, such as provisions for fee waivers, prompt responses, exemption categories, and discretionary disclosures.

How Does the TAP Work in Practice?

Following implementation of the new policy, I submitted several records requests to individual Fed Banks, utilizing the provisions of the TAP.

The requests encompassed a variety of documents, including:

  • Unpublished internal histories
  • Acquisition manuals
  • Records retention schedules
  • Photos of the gold vaults and gold holdings at the NY Fed Bank
  • Records on Project Hamilton
  • Several requests seeking research studies on the impact of M2 Money Supply
  • Histories of the Cash Products Office of the San Francisco Fed Bank
  • Various specified Fed Bank historical documents mentioned in Worldcat/OCLC

Overall, the requests were processed expediently and efficiently, with some exceptions worth noting.

  • One request was outright denied in full (a report dating from the 1940s): History of the Participation by other Federal Reserve Banks in the foreign accounts maintained by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, 1941, Federal Reserve Bank of New York. It was denied on the grounds under TAP exemption 5, deliberative material. I have requested reconsideration of this denial.
  • One request was less than satisfactory (photos of the gold holdings and gold vaults at the NY Fed Bank, for which the Bank provided only a couple of photos).
  • Requests seeking research studies on the impact of M2 Money Supply resulted in “no records” findings, despite the fact that M2 Money Supply is seen as a predictive indicator of recessions.
  • Finally, one topic (records of routine activities of the Cash Products Office at the San Francisco Fed Bank) attracted what appeared to be legalistic responses parsing the request so as to avoid generating results. I had asked for sample copies of each type of period report, and copies of the most recent daily and weekly reports, and when I was told there were no such reports, I later asked for lists of research papers, white papers, studies, working papers, etc. The Bank said it had no responsive records, and didn’t volunteer any indication of what type of periodic reporting or administrative descriptions of the CPO it does maintain.

There are three primary reasons for the Banks’ quick turnaround times. First, there are twelve Banks, each with their own TAP office, and each processing requests separately, thus sharing the load. Second, the Banks have received relatively few requests so far, and have not yet incurred a sizable backlog of pending requests. Third, the Banks seems to have made executing the TAP a priority, and the staff working on TAP are newly assigned to this task, and are likely motivated to provide prompt responses.

In response to my requests, the Fed Banks generally either posted the responsive documents to the FRASER database, or provided copies by email, or both. In several cases, the requested historical studies were already available on a Fed Bank website or FRASER.

TAP Case Logs (lists of requests received by that Bank and their dispositions) could serve as a valuable resource for assessing the efficacy of the TAP, offering insights into the processing and outcomes of a wide range of public records requests.

Presently, the Federal Reserve Banks have not established a TAP Reading Room, akin to the FOIA Reading Rooms found in most federal agencies, which house copies of previously released records anticipated to be requested again or otherwise of public interest. The creation of a TAP electronic reading room, either by Fed Bank or a combined reading room for all the Fed Banks, could represent a significant advancement for the Banks, fostering greater accessibility and preemptive disclosure of information.

Three of the Federal Reserve Banks do not provide the ability to submit requests by email:  Richmond, Atlanta, and Dallas. Each instead provides a web-based submission page.  The disadvantage of such submission pages is that it limits the number of characters that can be used to describe the request.  In the case of two of these banks, using more than the allowed number of characters blocks the ability to submit a request but fails to tell the requester why the request is blocked. In one case, the web submission page provides false information about why the request is blocked, telling the requester that it is due to the use of improper symbols in the text. The web submittal sites don’t allow addition of an attachment or enclosure for clarification.  Richmond, Atlanta and Dallas should allow submission of requests by email, as do the other Federal Reserve Banks.

Furthermore, most of the banks do not provide a clear link to the TAP section on their home pages. It is difficult to find the information on how to request records from the Bank without doing a keyword search. You must know that such a policy exists before you can look for it. Each Federal Reserve Bank should place on its internet home page a link to the Transparency and Accountability Policy page, perhaps labelled as “Public Records Requests” or “Requesting Bank Records”.


The TAP has shown promise in increasing transparency at the Federal Reserve Banks. The Banks’s handling of routine information requests reflects a good start toward that goal.

But the TAP’s journey toward full transparency is not without its challenges. The proactive dissemination of studies and reports, as showcased by their FRASER public repository, is commendable. Yet, the TAP’s current deficiencies regarding its scope, the appeals process, and fees diminishes these efforts.

The TAP should state that its scope encompasses all records (not just those after January 1, 2024), and improve the appeals process to ensure fairness and integrity, and align the fees charged more closely with the process found in the federal FOIA.

The prompt responses to requests observed thus far are encouraging, but as the volume of requests escalates to a more typical level, the Banks will need to keep up with the increased volume.

Equally important is the Fed Banks’ obligation to provide comprehensive responses to Congressional Committee inquiries, notwithstanding technical exemptions within the TAP. Failing to do so could prompt Congress to reconsider the application of FOIA to the Fed Banks.

Appendix:  Assessment of Records Received from Various Fed Banks

Following is a list of documents obtained from the Federal Reserve Banks, along with hyperlinks where applicable.

Atlanta Fed Bank

A history of the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta – Sixth District, by Franklin Miller Garrett, 1968.

A history of the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta, 1914-1989, by Richard H. Gamble, dated around 1989 or so.

Why do banks promise to pay par on demand, by Gerald P. Dwyer and Margarita Samartin, FRB Atlanta, 2006.

International Money and common currencies in historical perspective, by Gerald P. Dwyer, Jr. and James R. Lothian, 2002, FRB Atlanta.

How Amsterdam got fiat money, by Stephen Quinn, 2010, FRB Atlanta.

Boston Fed Bank

The Bank provided only this link:

A history of Investment banking in New England, by Parker B. Willis, FRB Boston.

Records on Project Hamilton:

Project Hamilton Phase I Executive Summary and White Paper:

Cleveland Fed Bank

History of the Cleveland Fed Bank: ;

and a 1950 film entitled “A day at the Cleveland Federal Reserve Bank

More Cleveland Fed Bank historical documents:

Chicago Fed Bank

History of the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, by John Alfred Griswold, 1936. Published by the FRB-Chicago.

Origins of the Modern Exchange Clearinghouse, by James T. Moser, 1994, FRB-Chicago.

The meeting of passion and intellect: a history of the term “bank”, by John J. DiClemente, 1983, FRB Chicago.

Credit Score Doctors, by Luojia Hu et al., 2020, FRB Chicago.

Dallas Fed Bank

History of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, 1914-1960, by Herman Ward Kilman, 1961.

Upon a strong foundation: A Historical Perspective and a Future Outlook for the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, 1914-1992, by Susan August Brown and Virginia Rogers.

Understanding the risks inherent in Shadow Banking, by David Luttrell, 2012, FRB Dallas.

Kansas City Fed Bank

Unfinished manuscript on the History of the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, by Jess Worley, circa 1921.

Confidence Restored: The History of the Tenth District’s Federal Reserve Bank, by Tim Todd, Diane M. Raley, etc., 2008, FRB Kansas City.

Let us put our money together, by Tim Todd & Esther L. George, 2019, FRB Kansas City.

A great moral and social force: a History of Black Banks, by Tim Todd, 2022

A Corollary of Accountability: The History of Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) Communications

Other historical publications of the Kansas City Fed Bank

Minneapolis Fed Bank

Sophisticated Monetary Policies, FRB-Minneapolis, Andrew Atkeson, et al., 2008

Lessons from the Monetary and Fiscal History of Latin America, Timothy Jerome Kehoe, et al., FRB Minneapolis, 2020.

New York Fed Bank

Too Much, Too Little, by Dan Rosen, et al., 2008 (comic book).

Links to All 19 Educational Comic Books from the New York Fed, 1972-2008.

Philadelphia Fed Bank

Our Work. Our People. Our Bank. A Look at Our First 100 Years A hardcopy of this document was provided but it is not available online, and the Bank reserves copyright ownership in the document.

Federal Reserve System, the first 100 years: a chapter in the history of Central Banking, 2014, FRB Philadelphia.

History of Central Banking from 1791 through to the 21st Century, 2009, FRB Philadelphia.

San Francisco Fed Bank

The Bank provided an internal publication provided in hard copy only and not posted online entitled  “A Historical Record of the Salt Lake City Branch of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco

Through the Decades: Celebrating the Los Angeles Branch’s 100 Years of History”, posted here: ;

Richmond Fed Bank

A Primer on the Fed.

The Federal Reserve at Work.

The origins of the Fed: A Short History of the Federal Reserve Act of 1913 on its 75th Anniversary .

From Trade-offs to Policy Ineffectiveness: A History of the Phillips Curve, by Thomas M. Humphrey.

Inside the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond.

From trade-offs to policy ineffectiveness: a history of the Phillips Curve, by Thomas M. Humphrey, FRB Richmond.

St. Louis Fed Bank

History of the Louisville Branch: Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, 1917-1952, dated 1952.

100 Years of Service, 1914 – 2014, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, 2014.

A Christmas President for the President: a short history of the creation of the Federal Reserve System, Gerald T. Dunne.

An introduction to the history of coinage and currency in the U.S., 1960, FRB St. Louis.

A new daily federal funds rate series and history of the Federal Funds Market, 2020, FRB-St. Louis.


The Federal Reserve system maintains many digital libraries, including FRASER, a digital library of U.S. economic, financial and banking history, particularly the history of the Federal Reserve System. (FRASER homepage); (about FRASER)

In addition, the Federal Reserve Board maintains a history website: The Federal Reserve History Website; (list of historical resources)

[1] New York Federal Reserve Bank FOIA Policy (replaced).

[2] Sens Elizabeth Warren and Rick Scott, Description of The Strengthening Federal Reserve System Accountability Act of 2023 (identifying potential conflicts of interest and general lack of accountability and transparency at the Federal Reserve)

[3] In Bipartisan Letter, Senators Warren, Scott Call Out Culture of Corruption in the Federal Reserve, March 6, 2024. citing March 6, 2024 Letter to Inspector General Mark Bialek,

[4] Leopold, Jason. Fed Official Lamented How “Bashing the Fed is a Bipartisan Sport”. Bloomberg News Service, April 26, 2024.

[5] Torres, Craig and Catarina Saraiva, Senator Warren Blasts Fed for Withholding Trading Records. Bloomberg News, August 11, 2022. See also Steven T. Dennis, Toomey Chides Fed for Withholding Documents in Raskin Fight, Bloomberg News, August 4, 2022

[6] Letter to Fed Chairman Powell from Senate Banking Committee Republican Members, (cited in Banking Republicans Blast the Federal Reserve After New Reports Indicates it Withheld Documents from Congress,


[8] For example, the Minneapolis Federal Reserve Bank published its TAP here:

[9] The initial office might assign different individuals to adjudicate the reconsideration, but such an action is not required by or apparent from the text of the TAP.

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