Uncloaking Fed Secrecy

The Senate today called for the Federal Reserve to identify banks and other financial institutions that have received more than $2.2 trillion in taxpayer-backed loans and other financial assistance. The Senate voted 59 to 39 for an amendment by Senator Bernie Sanders that would require the Fed to reveal the names of institutions that received assistance, to specify how much money each bank took, and to detail what the financial institutions are doing with the money. "The Federal Reserve has len

The Senate today called for the Federal Reserve to identify banks and other financial institutions that have received more than $2.2 trillion in taxpayer-backed loans and other financial assistance. The Senate voted 59 to 39 for an amendment by Senator Bernie Sanders that would require the Fed to reveal the names of institutions that received assistance, to specify how much money each bank took, and to detail what the financial institutions are doing with the money. "The Federal Reserve has lent out more than $2 trillion to hundreds of financial institutions, but we don't know who they are and we don't know how much they have received from the taxpayers," Sanders said. "In other words, over $2 trillion taxpayer dollars are at risk and the American people have no idea who has received that money or what the exact terms are. That is absurd. That has got to change."

Sanders, at a Senate Budget Committee hearing on March 3, asked Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke to name the hundreds of banks that took money since the financial crisis began. Bernanke refused to name any of the financial institutions. He would not say how much assistance was provided to each bank, nor detail what the banks are doing with the money.

Doug Elmendorf, the director of the Congressional Budget Office, testified earlier this year that the Federal Reserve has committed nearly $2.3 trillion and said the little-publicized form of assistance could grow to $4.5 trillion.

Sanders noted that a separate $700 billion financial rescue package that was signed into law last October requires the Treasury Department to identify recipients of bailout funds. Unlike the bailout, which Sanders opposed, Congress did not vote to directly authorize the Fed to spend any of this money.

"During the worst financial crisis in our nation's history since the Great Depression - a crisis which has led to the largest taxpayer bail-out ever - the very least we can do is explain to the American people what the Federal Reserve is doing with their hard-earned taxpayer dollars," Sanders said.

To see Sanders' amendment, click here.

To watch the senator's recent give and take with Chairman Bernanke, click here.