Could Trump Fire Fed Chairman Jay Powell?
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Could Trump Fire Fed Chairman Jay Powell?

It is very standard practice that the Chairman of the Federal Reserve is appointed to a 4-year term by the President of the United States.   It is also custom that in between appointments, the President refrains from commenting on Federal Reserve policy.

It has already been several months since the President defied custom by trying to jawbone Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell into not raising rates.

Jerome Powell acted independently, raising the Fed Funds rate to 2.00% to 2.25% in September, while indicating that further rate moves are on the way.

Now that the stock market has begun to fall, the President is escalating his rhetoric, including telling the Fox News microphone that the Fed has “gone loco”.

This brings into question the issue of whether Trump would try to fire Powell should the stock market continue to fall precipitously.   Actually, with this President, the question is not “would he” but “could he”.

And, my analysis after reading the Federal Reserve Act of 1913 is he could.   Section 10.2 gives the President broad latitude to remove any member of the Federal Reserve “for cause”.   It states.

The members of the Board shall be ineligible during the time they are in office and for two years thereafter to hold any office, position, or employment in any member bank, except that this restriction shall not apply to a member who has served the full term for which he was appointed. Upon the expiration of the term of any appointive member of the Federal Reserve Board in office on the date of enactment of the Banking Act of 1935, the President shall fix the term of the successor to such member at not to exceed fourteen years, as designated by the President at the time of nomination, but in such manner as to provide for the expiration of the term of not more than one member in any two-year period, and thereafter each member shall hold office for a term of fourteen years from the expiration of the term of his predecessor, unless sooner removed for cause by the President. Of the persons thus appointed, 1 shall be designated by the President, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, to serve as Chairman of the Board for a term of 4 years, and 2 shall be designated by the President, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, to serve as Vice Chairmen of the Board, each for a term of 4 years, 1 of whom shall serve in the absence of the Chairman, as provided in the fourth undesignated paragraph of this section, and 1 of whom shall be designated Vice Chairman for Supervision.

There is a host of legislation and precedent laying out what constitutes "cause" for removal of an appointed official.   I believe that the President inherently has broad authority to do this (especially when he is unchecked on this matter, as he is now, by the legislative branch).   Precedent in the form of the 1935 case of Humphrey’s Executor v. United States would indicate that the President’s power may be limited, but it has been widely suggested that Justice Kavanaugh would provide the deciding vote in overturning that case.   Under any circumstance, there is an open issue here, and with this President that means it could happen.

I’ve stated on BestCashCow frequently and repetitively that I see little reason to buy CDs in the current environment.   That view would change quickly if Trump continues to jawbone Jay Powell and takes further action towards firing him.

Ari Socolow
Ari Socolow: Ari Socolow is the Chief Economist and Editor-in-Chief at BestCashCow. He is particularly interested in issues relating to financial literacy and bank transparency. Since co-founding this website in 2005, Ari has been frequently cited in the media as an expert on local and national savings accounts, CD products, mortgage and loan products and credit card rewards products.
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