Jackson Hole Ticket Not Guaranteed for Top Fed Staff

Some Federal Reserve officials accustomed to an automatic invitation to the central bank’s annual mountainside symposium in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, are finding themselves empty handed this year.

The Kansas City Fed bank in recent years has welcomed the president and research director from each of the 11 other regional banks. For this year’s Aug. 26-28 conference, a regional bank may only send one of the two officials. Also, unlike in previous years, the New York Fed’s markets chief, currently Brian Sack, isn’t invited.

The change helps to foster debate and include more non-Fed attendees such as central bankers from abroad, said Diane Raley, a Kansas City Fed spokeswoman. Robert Eisenbeis, a former Atlanta Fed research director, said it deprives many research officials, who serve as their presidents’ top policy advisers and attend Fed interest-rate meetings, the chance to make important global contacts.

“Making those contacts personally with people from the international community is especially valuable,” said Eisenbeis, who has attended the event in past years and is now chief monetary economist with Cumberland Advisors of Sarasota, Florida. “It’s one of the few chances that a lot of the people have to do that. I always thought it was a very valuable meeting to attend.”

Policy Makers

Central bank officials from more than 35 countries usually travel to the Jackson Lake Lodge, elevation about 6,900 feet (2,103 meters), to mingle with leading monetary policy makers and thinkers. Last year’s attendees included Jose De Gregorio, Chile’s central bank president; Tito Mboweni, then-governor of the South African Reserve Bank; and Richard Berner, Morgan Stanley’s co-head of global economics.

Between debates over new research and crisis management under elk-antler chandeliers, attendees take hiking and rafting excursions in Grand Teton National Park. This year’s schedule features stargazing with a local astronomy club and a visit to a ranch with a “horse whisperer,” or trainer.

Participants pay their own fees to cover the cost of the conference and meals, as well as for lodging and additional activities.

The guest-list change frees up some of the approximately 135 slots and helps the Kansas City Fed achieve its goal of bringing together diverse views, including critics of the central bank, said Raley, a senior vice president who has helped run the event for 10 years. The district bank, currently led by Thomas Hoenig, has organized the symposium since 1982.

List Changes

“In weighing the demand for participants outside of the Federal Reserve, this was seen as a way to continue representation from each reserve bank while opening some invitation slots to new or additional attendees,” Raley said. To foster debate, the regional bank believes that “it is imperative that the invitation list change from year to year,” she said.

Some research directors will attend the symposium instead of the district bank presidents, Raley said.

The Kansas City Fed didn’t change its policy of inviting senior officials from the Fed’s Washington-based Board of Governors. The top three policy advisers to Fed Chairman Ben S. Bernanke on research and statistics, monetary affairs, and international finance usually attend.

Eisenbeis said that if he were a research director and saw that officials from the Board of Governors were invited, “I would be concerned about fairness.”

This year’s gathering centers on the theme, “Macroeconomic Challenges: The Decade Ahead.” Bernanke and European Central Bank President Jean-Claude Trichet are scheduled to speak.

Bernanke is set to discuss his economic outlook after the Fed set a floor on its securities holdings last week and said growth would be “more modest in the near term than had been anticipated.”

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