Fed Should Improve Orientation for New Governors, Report Finds

By Harriet TorryFeaturesDow Jones Newswires

The Federal Reserve could do a better job at showing the ropes to new members of its board of governors, the central bank's Office of Inspector General said Thursday.

New governors' orientation doesn't introduce them to their full set of roles and responsibilities, the office said in a report.

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The recommendation comes at a time of heavy turnover on the board. Fed governor Jerome Powell is likely to win Senate confirmation to become the next chairman in early February, succeeding Janet Yellen.

Ms. Yellen plans to leave the board after Mr. Powell is sworn in, which will open a seat on the seven-member board. There are three openings now, and President Donald Trump has nominated economist Marvin Goodfriend to one of them.

Mr. Trump's first nominee to the board, Randal Quarles, took office in October.

When new members join, the board could better prepare the governors for their various roles, the OIG said.

"Governors explained that they learn how committees function when they begin serving on those committees and that there is little guidance regarding governors' duties for policy areas for which they are not responsible for oversight," the OIG said.

"Multiple Governors also noted that there is a significant learning curve when joining the board," which a more detailed orientation could help to reduce, according to the report.

The OIG also had some suggestions for improving communication between governors while still complying with the Sunshine Act, a law designed to ensure the public's right to know about policy discussions.

The Fed recently adopted new rules determining how it would make decisions when it has so many open seats.

The rules change the quorum requirements that govern Fed board meetings and votes, making it possible in certain circumstances for two governors to talk among themselves without triggering a formal meeting that might have to be announced to the public in advance.

According to the OIG, the Fed should review the Sunshine Act's requirements to identify ways for governors to meet as a quorum, including informal background discussions and gatherings like lunches, that allow them to share information but don't constitute official board business.

What's more, the report said the ways officials currently comply with the Sunshine Act limits open communication among governors, creates time inefficiencies and makes board officials apprehensive about involving governors in certain discussions.

The Fed had no comment on the latest report, although a letter from Ms. Yellen dated Dec. 4 and included in the report said the findings "merit further attention."

Write to Harriet Torry at harriet.torry@wsj.com

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

December 14, 2017 13:09 ET (18:09 GMT)