Conyers Leads Effort for Diversity in Federal Reserve Bank Leadership
Washington, DC - Reps. John Conyers, Jr. (D-MI), Ranking Member on the Judiciary Committee; John Lewis (D-GA), a senior member of the House Ways & Means Committee; David Scott (D-GA), a senior member of the Financial Services Committee; and Maxine Waters (D-CA), Ranking Member on the Financial Services Committee, urged the Federal Reserve to conduct an inclusive, transparent search for the next President of the Reserve Bank of Atlanta, one that engages candidates from many diverse backgrounds.
In a letter to Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen and Thomas Fanning, Chairman of the Atlanta Fed, the Members emphasized the need for Federal Reserve policymakers to account for our nation’s grave racial disparities in terms of unemployment, wages, and income in the development of monetary policy, especially since the economic downturn severely damaged the already tenuous financial security of traditionally underserved communities. In the sixth Federal Reserve district, where the new president will serve, unemployment and poverty rates for African-Americans, for example, are about double those for white Americans.
Presidents of the 11 other reserve banks have all worked for major financial firms or at the Federal Reserve before their appointments. The Members urged the Fed to consider a wider range of backgrounds, including academia, labor, and non-profit institutions, to capture the perspectives of all Americans as they develop economic policy. Since the appointment of Andrew Brimmer to the Federal Reserve Board of Governors by Lyndon Johnson, there have been only a few minority governors, and no African-American or Latino bank presidents have ever been appointed. Currently there is one Asian bank president, Neel Kashkari, who heads the Reserve Bank of Minneapolis.
A report by the Center for Popular Democracy in February 2016 showed that the overwhelming majority of Reserve Bank directors and presidents are white, and there has never been an African-American or Latino Federal Reserve Bank president in the Fed’s history. In May, 127 Members of Congress, led by Congressman John Conyers, Jr., signed a letter urging for more diversity and a greater focus on high employment in minority communities at the Fed.
“Selecting the first African-American or Latino Regional Bank president would be a historic milestone for the Federal Reserve, and I greatly appreciate Chair Yellen’s focus on increasing diversity. But given the Fed’s long history of prioritizing low inflation over job creation, the candidate also should be truly committed to full employment and possess deep knowledge of labor market disparities that too often leave workers, especially workers of color, behind,” said Rep. John Conyers, Jr., Ranking Member on the House Judiciary Committee and Chair of the Congressional Full Employment Caucus.
“With this search, the Federal Reserve has a unique opportunity to restore confidence in our financial system by including the perspectives and experiences of a wider range of Americans,” Rep. John Lewis said. “Metro Atlanta was hit hard by the Great Recession, and many people in the South are still mired in poverty due to that downturn. In light of recent crises, the Federal Reserve should look far and wide to find the best person for this important job, not only within its own network. The Fed has a responsibility to ensure that the financial needs of the most vulnerable are considered within the policymaking process.”
“The Federal Reserve has an opportunity to do something very significant with the recent retirement announcement of the current President of the Atlanta Federal Bank,” said Rep. David Scott. “We’ve never had an African American Regional Fed president. I’m asking the Federal Reserve to take this opportunity to make history. We have many exceptionally qualified African Americans who can do this.”
In September, Atlanta Federal Reserve President Dennis Lockhart announced his retirement, effective in February 2017. To find a new president, the Directors of the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta will identify and consider candidates, who then must be interviewed and approved by the Federal Reserve Board of Governors. The Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta is one of 12 regional Reserve Banks and covers Georgia, Florida, Alabama, eastern Tennessee, southern Mississippi, and southern Louisiana.
Congressman Conyers launched the 32-member Congressional Full Employment Caucus in February 2014. Full employment is defined as the lowest possible unemployment rate that the economy can reach. Congressman Conyers has introduced several pieces of legislation to further that goal: H.R. 1000, the Humphrey-Hawkins 21st Century Full Employment and Training Act of 2015, which would tax Wall Street speculation to guarantee a job or training to every American who wants to work; H.R. 3531, The Full Employment Federal Reserve Act, which instructs the Federal Reserve bank to target a four percent national unemployment rate – the rate reached in the late 1990s; and H.R.3674, The Labor Statistics Improvement Act, which would create a commission to ensure that unemployment statistics accurately reflect the reality on the ground for job seekers. The Congressional Full Employment Caucus serves as a platform and working group for Members of Congress who are dedicated to identifying solutions and advocating for legislative action to reduce unemployment.
Full text of the letter to the Federal Reserve can be found here.