Making Sense of the Federal Reserve

Introduction to the Fed Board of Governors

Board of Governors

The Board of Governors, located in Washington, D.C., is the federal government agency that regulates banks, contributes to the nation's monetary policy, and oversees the activities of Reserve Banks.

At the core of the Federal Reserve System is the Board of Governors, or Federal Reserve Board. The Board of Governors, located in Washington, D.C., is a federal government agency that is the Fed's centralized component.

How Governors Are Appointed to the Federal Reserve Board

The Board consists of seven members who are appointed by the president of the United States and confirmed by the Senate. These Governors guide the Federal Reserve's policy actions.

How many years is a full term? A Federal Reserve Governor's term length is 14 years. It is possible, however, for a Governor to serve a longer term. For example, William McChesney Martin Jr. served as a member and Chairman of the Board of Governors for nearly 19 years because he was appointed as Chairman to complete another person's term and was then appointed to his own term.

Appointments to the Board of Governors are staggered—one Governor's term expires every two years. Terms are staggered to provide the Fed political independence as a central bank, ensuring that one president cannot take advantage of his power to appoint Governors by "stacking the deck" with those who favor his policies. The Board of Governors must be nonpartisan and act independently. In addition to independence, the staggered terms enable stability and continuity on the Board of Governors.

The seven Governors, according to the original Federal Reserve Act, should represent the nation’s financial, agricultural, industrial, and commercial interests. Geography is a factor, too, as every Governor must be selected from a different Federal Reserve District. Recently Congress directed that at least one of the Governors have experience in community banking. (In general, community banks can be defined as those owned by organizations with less than $10 billion in assets.) The seven Governors, along with a host of economists and support staff, write the policies that ensure financially sound banks and a stable and strong national economy.

What Does the Federal Reserve Board of Governors Do?

Governors actively lead committees that study prevailing economic issues—from affordable housing and consumer banking laws to interstate banking and electronic commerce. The Board of Governors also exercises broad supervisory control over certain state-chartered financial institutions, called member banks, as well as the companies that own banks (bank holding companies). This control ensures that commercial banks operate responsibly and comply with federal regulations and that the nation's payments system functions smoothly.

In addition, the Board of Governors oversees the activities of Reserve Banks, approving the appointments of each Reserve Bank's president and three members of its board of directors. The Governors' most important responsibility is participating on the FOMC, the committee that directs the nation's monetary policy.

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