Wednesday, April 13, 2022
Professor Julie Hill recently posted Bank Access to Federal Reserve Accounts and Payment Systems. It's an excellent and important article. As I've blogged about (here) and written about (here), access to a master account at the Fed is an arcane, but highly important issue.
Here's the abstract for Professor Hill's article:
"Should the Federal Reserve process payments for a Colorado credit union established to serve the cannabis industry? Should the Federal Reserve provide an account for a Connecticut uninsured bank that plans to keep all its depositors’ money in that Federal Reserve account? Should the Federal Reserve provide payment services for an uninsured, government-owned bank in American Samoa? What about Wyoming cryptocurrency custody banks? Should they have access to Federal Reserve accounts and payment systems? Although the Federal Reserve has recently considered account and payment services applications from these novel banks, its process for evaluating the applications is not transparent.
This Article examines how the Federal Reserve decides which banks get access to its accounts and payment systems. It explores the sometimes-ambiguous statutory authority governing the Federal Reserve’s provision of accounts and payments and chronicles the Federal Reserve’s longtime policies limiting access for risky banks. Because the statutes, regulations, and Federal Reserve policies are largely silent about the process banks encounter when seeking accounts and payment services, the Article analyzes recent novel account applications. These applications reveal confusion. Most district Federal Reserve Banks do not explain how banks should apply for an account or what information they should provide. It is not clear who decides which banks are legally eligible to receive accounts. While the Federal Reserve Banks all evaluate risk associated with account and payments requests, the Reserve Banks may not have the same risk tolerances. There are no processes to encourage consistent decisionmaking across the twelve Federal Reserve Banks. Getting a decision takes years. These applications show that the Federal Reserve needs a transparent framework for evaluating access requests. Unfortunately, the Federal Reserve’s recently proposed guidelines, which consist primarily of a risk identification framework, do not go far enough."