A financial transaction conducted by Richard H. Clarida, the retiring vice chair of the Federal Reserve in early 2020, when the Fed was getting ready to swoop in and save the markets from the emerging epidemic, went undisclosed for a year and a half.
The Federal Reserve’s chairman, Jerome H. Powell, previously came under criticism for purchasing shares in an investment vehicle that owns equities on Feb. 27 – one day before the central bank indicated that it would be ready to assist the economy if the flu epidemic spread. Legislators and watchdog organisations were outraged by the deal, which they said placed Mr. Clarida in a position to profit while the Federal Reserve restored market confidence.
On Feb. 24, according to Mr. Clarida’s newly modified financial report, he sold the same stock fund, which occurred at a time when global markets were plummeting due to worries about the virus.
In response to a question about why Mr. Clarida had sold and then purchased in such a short period of time, the Fed provided no more explanation. When asked whether the Fed was sticking by its past statements that the move was part of a rebalancing, a representative declined to comment.
In the months-long trading controversy that has engulfed senior Fed officials and resulted in high-profile resignation from the typically staid central bank, the size of Mr. Clarida’s transaction has been revealed as the newest revelation.
Financial disclosures made public in late 2021 revealed that Robert S. Kaplan, the former president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, had made large individual stock trades, while Eric S. Rosengren, the president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, had made large trades in real estate securities. These actions received swift and vehement criticism from members of Congress, ethical experts, and former Federal workers.
Mr. Clarida’s transactions, which were first reported by Bloomberg, also drew the attention of legislators, notably Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, who has called for a probe of Federal Reserve officials’ 2020 trading by the Securities and Exchange Commission, according to Bloomberg. In contrast, many ethical experts believed that since it occurred in a broad-based index and because the Federal Reserve said that it was part of a planned, longer-term investment strategy, the transaction was more benign, albeit not perfectly timed.
The deal was most certainly profitable for Mr. Clarida, however it is unknown if he personally profited from the transaction. Mr. Clarida would have ended up with more shares if he had sold the stock fund when its value started to collapse and then bought it again a few days later when the price per share was lower. This is assuming that he had reinvested all of the money that he had taken from the fund. According to the financial declarations, both purchases were worth between $1 million and $5 million.
Following Mr. Powell’s statement, the sale-and-purchase transaction would have generated profits within a few days, as stock markets and the mutual fund in issue both surged in value. The investment would have thereafter suffered a loss when equities plummeted once again as the pandemic problem became more severe.
However, after the Federal Reserve’s substantial involvement in the markets, the fund’s value rebounded. Assuming they were kept, the assets would have risen in value over time and resulted in a greater return than they would have if Mr. Clarida had just hung on to the initial investment without selling or purchasing anything else in the meanwhile.
The Fed was aware of the reputational risk associated with trading as the pandemic ramped up in intensity — the Board of Governors’ ethics office sent an email in late March 2020 encouraging officials to refrain from making personal trades — but notable transactions occurred in late February and again as early as May, according to its officials’ disclosures.
The persons in issue were also subjected to reprimands. They are now the subject of an independent inquiry to determine whether or not their transactions were lawful and in accordance with internal central bank guidelines. In response to a request from Ms. Warren, the S.E.C. refused to comment on whether or not it has launched or would begin an inquiry into Mr. Clarida’s transactions and those of his colleagues.
Both might be confronted with difficult questions about how a Federal Reserve culture that was accepting of trading at activist periods was able to endure until recently. Mr. Powell served as the organization’s leader, while Ms. Brainard served as the chair of the committee in charge of reserve bank supervision.
Mr. Shaub said that further information was required to determine if the deal was improper, including whether Mr. Clarida was aware of the upcoming announcement on February 28 — and when he was aware of it.
He said that, regardless of how much information Mr. Clarida had about his colleagues’ intentions, the February transactions were a significant problem that the Fed needed to explain in further detail.