As the financial impact of the coronavirus became increasingly apparent this spring, top federal financial regulators intensified their interaction, meeting – typically by conference calls – more than 60 times from March through June, according to a review of the Federal Reserve Board chair’s public calendar for the period.
At the same time, however, communication between the Fed chair and the president of the United States was minimal.
According to the calendars, Fed Chair Jerome H. (“Jay”) Powell and Treasury Secretary Stephen Mnuchin met 62 times – including in conference calls with staff, telephone exchanges between only those two, and once for breakfast over the four-month period.
Altogether, the meetings between the Treasury secretary and the Fed chair accounted for 52 hours of meetings, with the lion’s share dedicated to conference calls with the two top leaders and staff from their agencies.
April was the most intense month, with 21 meetings over 19.5 hours. That was the month that followed the flurry of actions the Fed and Treasury took to meet the financial impact of the coronavirus crisis. It was also the month that the impact of the virus on communities, including on unemployment, became most apparent.
In March, Mnuchin and Powell met once for breakfast and 10 times over the telephone, in either conference calls with staff or in calls only between those two. In both May and June, the Treasury and Federal Reserve leaders were in contact 16 times in both months, according to Powell’s calendar, for 12.75 hours and 12.4 hours, respectively.
June is the most recent calendar of Powell’s that is publicly available. Typically, the Fed releases the chairman’s calendar the first week of the second month following the calendar to be released. The July calendar, for example, will likely be released in early September.
Meanwhile, over the four-month period when Powell and Mnuchin were in close contact, Powell also had one discussion with President Donald Trump – on March 23 for 10 minutes. Four days later (March 27), Trump signed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act (CARES Act), enacting legislation providing financial and regulatory relief to consumers and financial institutions to deal with the pandemic. Powell’s calendar shows no other contact with the president in April, May, or June.
However, Powell and Trump were in contact twice in February before the virus’s impact on the economy had become fully apparent. According to Powell’s calendar, the Fed chair talked to Trump Feb. 7 for 30 minutes and then again on Feb. 26 for five minutes. Before that, the last time Trump and Powell talked was in November for a 30-minute meeting in the White House. Mnuchin also attended that meeting, according to the calendar for that month.