Federal Reserve Bank of Boston president Eric Rosengren said Thursday that he will sell his individual stocks and stop trading, as he moved to dispel questions about potential conflicts of interest that arose after he and other regional Fed presidents released their annual financial disclosure forms.
Rosengren’s disclosure filing showed that he bought and sold shares of real estate investment trusts, or REITs, and other securities last year whose values likely were affected by the central bank’s efforts to prop up financial markets as the economy plunged into recession. Rosengren’s REIT holdings drew particular attention because he has warned more than once that the coronavirus pandemic could hurt real estate values and cause loan losses at banks.
In a statement, Rosengren said his personal saving and investment transactions complied with Federal Reserve ethics rules. But to avoid “even the appearance of any conflict of interest,” he will sell his stocks by Sept. 30 and put the proceeds into diversified index funds or cash savings. He will not trade in those holdings as long as he remains president of the Boston Fed, according to the statement. The moves do not affect his retirement plan.
“I made some personal investment decisions last year that were permissible under Fed ethics rules for asset types and timeframes for transactions,” said Rosengren, who has run the Boston Fed since 2007. “Regrettably, the appearance of such permissible personal investment decisions has generated some questions, so I have made the decision to divest these assets to underscore my commitment to Fed ethics guidelines.”
The scrutiny of Rosengren’s investments came after the Wall Street Journal reported that Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas president Robert Kaplan made multiple million-dollar-plus stock trades in 2020, according to his disclosure form. He also reported owning a stake in the Kansas City Royals baseball team worth more than $1 million.
The Fed presidents’ filings rarely make news, but last year was unusual because the central bank cut interest rates to near zero, began buying huge amounts of Treasury securities and mortgage debt, and launched other programs to support financial markets and cushion the economy as it went into freefall. Its actions were widely seen as pivotal in ending the recession after just two months.
None of the investments listed by Rosengren were valued at $1 million or more. Seven of his 11 holdings were valued at $1,001 to $50,000, and four were valued at $50,001 to $250,000. They included shares of Chevron, AT&T, Pfizer, and Verizon.
He also held REITs including Annaly Capital Management. Annaly and similar real estate trusts buy and sell mortgage-backed securities, a type of debt that the Fed is buying at a monthly clip of $40 billion as part of its easy-money policies.