Understanding the Terms of the Board of Governors of the Fed

The Federal Reserve System is a complex organization, comprised of twelve regional Feds and a Federal Reserve Board in Washington, DC.  In this article I describe the terms of the Board of Governors, the group that sets Fed policy (I have written elsewhere on the structure of the Fed).

The current structure of the Board of Governors (seven members with 14 year terms) dates back to 1935; under the original Federal Reserve Act (see here), there were five appointive members plus the Controller of the Currency and the Secretary of the Treasury (who was the ex-officio Chairman of the Board).

The Fed describes how the Board of Governors is nominated and how long they serve here, here and here:

The seven members of the Board of Governors are appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate to serve 14-year terms of office. Members may serve only one full term, but a member who has been appointed to complete an unexpired term may be reappointed to a full term. The President designates, and the Senate confirms, two members of the Board to be Chairman and Vice Chairman, for four-year terms.

A full term is fourteen years. One term begins every two years, on February 1 of even-numbered years.

Upon the expiration of their terms of office, members of the Board shall continue to serve until their successors are appointed and have qualified.

Thus, as I write in early 2009, there are seven current terms, with starting dates from February, 1, 1996 to February 1, 2008. But very few Fed governors serve all fourteen years of their terms, and with the difficult relations between the previous President and the Senate (see, for example, here), the Fed is operating with five governors.  President Obama, with a large Democratic majority in the Senate, should have no problem filling the two empty seats.


The Feb 1996-Jan 2010 term is vacant.

Elizabeth Duke took office on  August 5, 2008 to fill the Feb 1998-Jan 2012 term.

The Feb 2000-Jan 2014 term is vacant.

Donald Kohn took office on August 5, 2002, to fill the Feb 2002-Jan 2016 term. On June 23, 2006, Kohn was sworn in as Vice Chairman of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System for a four-year term ending June 23, 2010.

Kevin Warsh took office on February 24, 2006, to fill the Feb 2004-Jan 2018 term.

Ben Bernanke was sworn in on February 1, 2006, as Chairman and a member of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System. He was appointed as a member of the Board to a full 14-year term, Feb 2006-Jan 2020, and to a four-year term as Chairman, which expires January 31, 2010.

Daniel Tarullo took office on January 28, 2009 taking the  February 1, 2008 to January  31, 2022 term.

Presumably some time in 2009 President Obama will nominate two governors to fill the other vacant seats. But President Obama will not be able to replace Chairman Bernanke or Vice Chairman Kohn until 2010, although presumably pressure from the President could convince one or more Board members to resign before their terms expire.

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