Yellen says she met with analyst named in rate leak probe but meeting was earlier and general

WASHINGTON – Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen on Monday disclosed that she met with a financial analyst at the centre of an investigation into a possible leak of confidential interest-rate information. But she says the meeting occurred several months before the private Fed discussions at issue took place, and dealt with general economic matters.

The information came in a letter from Yellen to senior House Republicans who are investigating whether market-sensitive information was deliberately leaked from the Fed’s interest-rate policy meeting in September 2012.

The lawmakers had requested the names of Fed officials and staff who had contact with the analyst’s firm, Medley Global Advisors, from June through October 2012. Yellen said several names were provided confidentially to the staff of House Financial Services Committee, and that hers is on the list.

The Fed told the committee in March that its own investigation found no evidence that confidential information was deliberately leaked from the September 2012 policy meeting. Any disclosure of information on Fed policymakers’ views appeared to have been “unintentional or careless” and did not contain details of policy proposals, the Fed concluded.

The Fed’s probe was begun in October 2012 at the request of then-Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke and completed in March 2013.

The Fed inspector general, an independent watchdog, and the Justice Department have been reviewing the handling of the internal probe amid allegations of possible impropriety cited by Rep. Jeb Hensarling, a Texas Republican who heads the Financial Services Committee.

Yellen said in the letter that she met with the analyst, Regina Schleiger of Medley Global Advisors, on June 11, 2012, “to hear her perspectives on international developments.” She was the Fed’s vice chairman at the time. The meeting was months before Medley’s Oct. 3 report to clients on the Fed policymakers reaching consensus on launching an additional round of bond purchases to stimulate economic growth, Yellen noted.

“Nothing Medley Global Advisors reported in October about the events of the September 2012 … meeting could have been conveyed in June, and let me assure you that in any case, I did not convey any confidential information,” she wrote.

Yellen said that she and the Fed’s policymaking committee “take seriously our commitment to maintain the confidentiality of our deliberations and planning.”

Prior to the 2012 events, the committee had adopted policies related to external communications of policymakers and Fed staff, she told Hensarling and Rep. Sean Duffy, R-Wis., chairman of the Financial Services Committee’s oversight panel. She said the Fed has policies and procedures that it follows if a leak occurs.

Hensarling, a prominent critic of the Fed, has said he understood that that the Fed’s internal probe had been dropped earlier at the request of several members of the Fed’s policymaking body.

He had no immediate comment on Yellen’s letter, his spokesman said.