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Photo: Al Drago/Bloomberg via Getty Images

New disclosures that showed Fed officials were active in financial markets set off a firestorm of criticism. Now the Fed may overhaul the long-standing rules that allow those transactions.

Why it matters: What officials actively traded was sensitive to the Fed decisions they helped shape, including the unprecedented support that underpinned a massive financial market boom.

  • "Chair Powell late last week directed Board staff to take a fresh and comprehensive look at the ethics rules around permissible financial holdings and activities by senior Fed officials," a Fed spokesperson said in a statement Thursday.

Catch up quick: All of the regional Fed bank heads released financial disclosures for 2020 — but two raised eyebrows: Robert Kaplan (Dallas) and Eric Rosengren (Boston).

  • Kaplan made multiple million-dollar stock trades (including in names like Tesla) plus other investments, while Rosengren invested in real-estate tied assets.

The intrigue: Their activity didn't violate Fed rules. Ethics officials at the respective regional banks review disclosures.

How it works: A spokesperson said additional rules specific to Fed officials are “stricter than those that apply to Congress and other agencies.”

  • Fed officials (and some staff) are subject to a “blackout period”: no trading 10 days ahead of policy meetings through midnight of the final meeting day.
  • They also can't own bank stocks and are restricted in ownership of government securities: for instance, they can own Treasury bonds as long as holdings aren’t valued above $50,000, per a conduct guide, last updated in 2017.

But while Fed chair Jerome Powell is required to report transactions above a certain threshold within 30 days (like other top government officials), Fed bank presidents don’t have to do that.

The bottom line: In statements that came minutes apart last week, Kaplan and Rosengren said they would dump their individual stock holdings by Sept. 30 — and won’t trade stocks while in their posts to avoid “even the appearance of any conflict of interest.”

  • Of note: The conduct guide already cautions officials to “avoid any dealings … that might convey even an appearance of conflict between their personal interests, the interests of the [Fed], and the public interest.”

Go deeper

Taking stock of the market's roller coaster week

Photo: Angela Weiss/AFP via Getty Images

The stock market roller coaster ride this week was real.

Why it matters: This year was on pace to notch a rare milestone: a full 12-months without a pullback of more than 5% in the S&P 500 — until this week helped tip it further out of the running.

Tina Reed, author of Vitals
3 hours ago - Health

FDA panel endorses shot of J&J booster for adults

Photo: Wolfgang Kumm/picture alliance via Getty Images)

Members of the Food and Drug Administration's vaccine expert panel on Friday unanimously endorsed a booster shot for adult recipients of Johnson & Johnson's COVID-19 vaccine at least two months after the initial dose.

Why it matters: The advisory committee raised concerns about a dearth of data to support their decision but ultimately decided to support an additional shot for those over 18.

Capitol Police officer indicted for obstructing Jan. 6 investigation

Trump supporters clash with police and security forces as people try to storm the Capitol on Jan. 6. Photo: Brent Stirton/Getty Images

A U.S. Capitol Police officer has been indicted on obstruction of justice charges for allegedly helping hide evidence of a participant's involvement in the Jan. 6 riot.

Driving the news: Officer Michael A. Riley, 50, is accused of telling the unidentified participant, referred to as "Person 1," in the Jan. 6 riot to delete posts from Facebook, which showed them in the Capitol during the attack.