Well, even under the compulsion of law, the Fed chooses not to comply. Should we be surprised that it continues to refuse to make mandated disclosures?
In this case, as reported by Bloomberg, the Fed has withheld information that was of the collateral posted by borrowers to secure $885 billion of loans. Without this information, it is impossible to ascertain the risks undertaken in various emergency facilities. Dodd Frank specifically requires this detail be released: the relevant language is boldfaced:
(c) PUBLICATION OF BOARD ACTIONS.—Notwithstanding any other provision of law, the Board of Governors shall publish on its website, not later than December 1, 2010, with respect to all loans and other financial assistance provided during the period beginning on December 1, 2007 and ending on the date of enactment of this Act under the Asset-Backed Commercial Paper Money Market Mutual Fund Liquidity Facility, the Term Asset-Backed Securities Loan Facility, the Primary Dealer Credit Facility, the Commercial Paper Funding Facility, the Term Securities Lending Facility, the Term Auction Facility, Maiden Lane, Maiden Lane II, Maiden Lane III, the agency Mortgage-Backed Securities pro- gram, foreign currency liquidity swap lines, and any other program created as a result of section 13(3) of the Federal Reserve Act (as so designated by this title)—
(1) the identity of each business, individual, entity, or foreign central bank to which the Board of Governors or a Federal reserve bank has provided such assistance;
(2) the type of financial assistance provided to that business, individual, entity, or foreign central bank;
(3) the value or amount of that financial assistance;
(4) the date on which the financial assistance was provided;
(5) the specific terms of any repayment expected, including
the repayment time period, interest charges, collateral, limitations on executive compensation or dividends, and other material terms; and
(6) the specific rationale for each such facility or program
In other words, there is no way to pretend that this information was not part of the stipulated disclosure. The terms of the various types of support extended are to be revealed by borrower, in particular the details of the various types of support extended, including the collateral posted. Instead, the Fed provided the data on an aggregated basis, by asset type and rating and then only for three of six facilities.So what is the Fed trying to hide?
A number of experts correctly pointed out that this is inadequate:
“This is a half-step,” said former Atlanta Fed research director Robert Eisenbeis, chief monetary economist at Cumberland Advisors Inc. in Sarasota, Florida. “If you were going to audit the facilities, then would this enable you to do an audit? The answer is ‘No,’ you would have to go in and look at the individual amounts of collateral and how it was broken down to do that. And that is the spirit of what the requirements were in Dodd-Frank.”…
It is “specifically impossible” to know how much risk taxpayers were taking by looking at pools of collateral grouped by asset class and rating, said Sylvain Raynes, a principal at R&R Consulting in New York and co-author of “Elements of Structured Finance,” published in May by Oxford University Press.
“I need to know the individual composition because a $2 billion pool can be one asset of $2 billion, which would be very risky, or 2,000 assets of $1 million each, and that’s not risky at all,” Raynes said. “The spirit of Dodd-Frank was not respected, and they used the vagueness in the wording of the law to weasel out of fulfilling their duty to the American people.”
One expert argued that the data needed to be withheld because it might spur bank runs. This is simply barmy. These loans took place during the crisis; this exercise is about past, not current exposures. And the Treasury has given all the TARP banks clean bills of health. There’s no risk here, save to the Fed’s reputation and its secrecy.