Congressional Republicans are now ramping up their criticism of the secrecy surrounding another government agency, the Federal Reserve, which under the new financial regulatory overhaul gains vast new powers to regulate Wall Street firms and banks, yet receives minimal oversight, FOX Business Network has learned.
The new initiative, spearheaded by Congressman Spencer Bachus, a ranking member of the House Banking Committee, comes after a FOX Business report detailed how the Securities and Exchange Commission, which polices the securities markets for wrongdoing, can now withhold more information from the public through new exemptions to the federal Freedom of Information Act created during the financial reform legislation that was recently signed into law by President Obama.
The SEC says it still must comply with most aspects of the FOIA.
But the SEC's veil of secrecy pales in comparison to that enjoyed by the Federal Reserve. The Fed is exempt from FOIA, and while the SEC is a government agency that receives routine Congressional oversight, the Fed's Congressional oversight consists largely of biannual hearings before the House and Senate.
Now that the Fed has gained new and expanded powers under financial reform to regulate the banking industry, Congressional Republicans are lashing out, saying greater oversight is needed, and pointing a finger at House Banking Committee chairman Barney Frank for allegedly watering down a proposal from Republic congressman Ron Paul to audit the agency.
"There are real-world consequences of the culture of secrecy at the Federal Reserve," Bachus said in statement to FOX Business. "A prime example is the AIG mess in which the Federal Reserve paid a handful of mega banks and foreign counter parties one hundred cents on the dollar, more than $12 billion, while offering small and regional banks thirty percent of what they were owed.
"This demonstrated to many of us in Congress that the Federal Reserve was in need of transparency and accountability. Repeated letters and questions in Committee proceedings still have not received answers to some of the most basic questions regarding this disparity in treatment... Allowing the Federal Reserve to continue to operate in secrecy, and with the expanded powers handed to them by the Democrats, fails to protect the interest of taxpayers. I will continue to work towards bringing transparency and accountability to the Federal Reserve."
A spokesman for the Fed didn't return a call for comment; a spokesman for Frank had no immediate comment.