Government in the Sunshine Meeting Memorandum
A Guide to Meetings of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System
Meetings of the Board of Governors, typically held twice a month, cover the regulatory, monetary policy, and other responsibilities of the central bank. The Board conducts its meetings in compliance with title 5, section 552b, of the U.S. Code, known as the Government in the Sunshine Act. The public is welcome to attend all meetings except those that the Board determines should be closed under legal exemptions defined in the Sunshine Act.
This guide describes the procedures that the Board follows for open and closed meetings. Specific exemptions in the Sunshine Act that allow closed meetings are listed at the end of this document. Additional information is available from the Board's Public Affairs Office and Freedom of Information Office.
Agendas of open Board meetings are released to the public in advance. Routine matters are listed on a "Summary Agenda"; more substantive items are listed on a "Discussion Agenda."
Notice of Open Meetings
The Board submits a notice of an open meeting to the Federal Register generally seven days in advance of the meeting. At the time of submission, the notice is also available from the Board's Freedom of Information and Public Affairs offices and the Board Meetings page of the Board's web site. In addition, the Board maintains a "Sunshine" mailing list to announce meetings to interested members of the public.
For a 24-hour tape-recorded announcement about open meetings, please call (202) 452-3206. For additional information about agenda items, you may call the Public Affairs Office at (202) 452-2955 between 9:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m., Monday through Friday.
The Summary Agenda
The items on the Summary Agenda, the first to be considered during an open meeting, typically are recommendations that have the consensus of the staff and are in accord with established policy. The Board generally acts on all of the summary items at once with a single vote, but if a Board member wishes to discuss a proposal, it is moved to the Discussion Agenda.
The Discussion Agenda
The items on the Discussion (or Regular) Agenda are presented by staff members or by Board members with oversight responsibility for the matter. After the discussion of each item, the Board members vote in order of seniority, with the Chairman (or, in the Chairman's absence, the presiding officer) ordinarily casting the last vote.
Open meetings generally begin at 10:00 a.m. at the Federal Reserve Board, Marriner S. Eccles Building (map, 32 KB PDF). Persons attending an open meeting receive an agenda summarizing the matters to be considered and supporting memoranda for each item if available. Nameplates on the Board table identify the Board members.
If you plan to attend an open meeting, please notify us several days before the meeting date and provide your name, date of birth, and social security number or passport number. You may provide this information by calling (202) 452-2474 or you may register on line. You may pre-register until close of business the day before the meeting.
Attendees should use the visitors entrance to the Eccles building, which is on 20th Street between Constitution Avenue and C Street, N. W. Before admittance, you will be asked to provide identifying information, including a photo ID. The Public Affairs Office must approve the use of cameras; please call 202-452-2955 for further information.
Privacy Act Notice: Providing the information requested is voluntary; however, failure to provide your name, date of birth, and social security number or passport number may result in denial of entry to the Federal Reserve Board. This information is solicited pursuant to Sections 10 and 11 of the Federal Reserve Act and will be used to facilitate a search of law enforcement databases to confirm that no threat is posed to Board employees or property. It may be disclosed to other persons to evaluate a potential threat. The information also may be provided to law enforcement agencies, courts and others, but only to the extent necessary to investigate or prosecute a violation of law.
Information Available during and after Open Meetings
The Board releases most of the staff memorandums considered at open meetings, providing them at the meeting and through its Freedom of Information Office and web site.
The Freedom of Information Office also has cassette audio tapes of meetings held in the past two years; the tapes are available for use in the Freedom of Information Office and may be purchased at $6 per copy.
Closed meetings are announced to the public on a schedule determined by the nature of the items to be discussed. Items considered in closed session include primarily
- Bank and bank holding company supervisory matters, discussions of which generally disclose information from bank examination reports or commercial and financial information obtained in confidence by the Board
- Monetary policy and other matters whose premature release could be used in financial speculation
- Personnel matters.
Items in these categories fall into one of two types: "recorded" (that is, tape recorded) and "expedited."
A meeting to consider only recorded items generally requires an advance public notice of one week; a meeting to consider only expedited items requires a notice at the earliest practicable time, usually two business days before the meeting. A meeting to consider a combination of recorded and expedited items requires both types of notices.
Recorded items are those whose discussion is closed to the public under exemptions 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, and 9(B) of the Sunshine Act (see the list of exemptions below). Items closed solely under exemption 4 are recorded, but in all other respects they are treated as expedited items.
Advance notice of recorded items. The Federal Register carries the Board's notices of meetings to consider recorded items. Copies of the notices are generally also available a week before the meeting from the Board's Freedom of Information and Public Affairs offices, the Treasury Department Press Room, and the Board's web site.
The notices give the subject matter of the recorded items, the time and place of the meeting, and the name and telephone number of the official designated to handle inquiries about the meeting.
An additional notice in the Board's Freedom of Information Office cites the applicable exemptions and reasons for closing an item; gives the names of those expected to attend the discussion of that item; and lists the vote of each Board member regarding the decision to close the discussion.
Subsequent notices also indicate, as necessary, any change in the time of a meeting, any deletion or addition of an item, and any change in the open/closed status of an item.
Availability of recordings. After a meeting that includes recorded items, the Board's Freedom of Information Office makes available a full audio cassette recording of the discussion except the portions, if any, that the Board has determined are exempted from release. Audio material initially withheld may be released at a later date when its exempted status no longer applies.
The audio recordings, which give the names of speakers as they speak, are available for use in the Board's Freedom of Information Office and may be purchased at $6 per copy.
Other information available after a meeting. Besides the recording, other information is available in the Board's Freedom of Information Office after a meeting that includes recorded items:
- The certificate of the General Counsel stating that closing the meeting was permissible and citing the applicable exemptions
- The statement of the meeting's presiding officer giving the time and place the meeting was held and the persons present
- If applicable, a statement of the vote by Board members to withhold information from the copy of the recording or transcript released to the public and the exemptions cited.
Besides meetings, the Board uses two other procedures for handling official business: notation voting and delegation of authority.
The Board conducts some routine business by notation vote, in which material circulates among the Board members for written vote and comment. Upon request by a Board member, however, any such item may be placed on the Board's Regular Agenda for discussion, at which time it becomes subject to the Sunshine Act.
Delegation of Authority
The Board may delegate its authority to act on specific items to individual members of the Board, to its staff, or to a Reserve Bank's staff. A copy of the Board's Rules Regarding Delegation of Authority is available from the Board's Publications Office at (202) 452-3244.
Here is a summary of the ten conditions under which a meeting is exempt from the open-meeting requirements of the Government in the Sunshine Act. Under the act, meetings may be closed to the public if they are likely to
- Disclose matters authorized under Executive Order to be kept secret in the interests of national defense or foreign policy
- Relate solely to internal personnel rules and practices of an agency
- Disclose matters specifically exempted from disclosure by statute
- Disclose trade secrets and commercial or financial information obtained from a person that are privileged or confidential
- Involve accusing any person of a crime or censuring any person
- Involve personal information whose disclosure would constitute an invasion of personal privacy
- Disclose certain investigatory records compiled for law enforcement purposes
- Disclose information contained in, or related to, examination, operating, or condition reports prepared for or used by an agency responsible for regulation or supervision of financial institutions
Involve information the premature disclosure of which would
be likely to
- lead to significant financial speculation in currencies, securities, or commodities or
- significantly endanger the stability of any financial institution or
- be likely to significantly frustrate implementation of a proposed agency action
- be likely to
- Specifically concern the agency's issuance of a subpoena or participation in a civil action or proceeding.
For additional information about these exemptions, please consult the Government in the Sunshine Act (5 U.S.C. section 552b) and the Board's Rules Regarding Public Observation of Meetings, 12 C.F.R. part 261b.