Fed proposing to make master accounts data public

The Federal Reserve will seek public comment on a proposal to publish a periodic list of depository institutions that have access to Fed accounts—often referred to as “master accounts”—and payment services, the agency announced today.

The long-standing practice of the Fed has been not to disclose account-related information to the general public on the basis that such information is considered confidential business information. However, the agency said it has received comments from multiple stakeholders seeking greater public disclosure of account-related information, so will reevaluate that practice. “Today’s proposal will enhance transparency to the public by periodically publishing a comprehensive list of financial institutions that have access to Federal Reserve accounts and payment services,” said Vice Chairwoman Lael Brainard.

The Fed is proposing to produce a quarterly report with lists of federally-insured depository institutions and non-insured institutions with access to accounts and services. The lists would contain the institution name and the Fed district in which the institution is located. The report also would identify institutions that have received access to accounts and services since the publication of the previous report, and institutions that no longer have access since the previous report.

The agency seeks answers to questions about how to balance public transparency with the need to protect confidential information, the proposed quarterly timing of the reports, and whether additional data should be included or withheld. Comments will be accepted for 60 days after the notice is published in the Federal Register.