It is indeed a murky business which is part of the grist that gets ground of the mills of the anti-Fed conspiracy theorists (Masons!!! eeeeek!!!).
In fact, technically and officially, the Federal Reserve System is owned by the "National Banks," which in turn are privately owned. I would note that this does not include all the privately owned commercial banks in the US. It did not in the past even include a majority of them, although I suspect it does today, given the spate of bankruptcies and mergers that went on with the big banking shakeout we had in the US back in the late 80s and early 90s. It certainly does include all the bigger banks in the country, including all the "too big to fail" money center banks.
OTOH, Fed employees have the rights and protections of federal government employees. At the same time they are not tied to civil service pay scales, although I could stand to be corrected on that. I don't know if they get federal pensions or not.
Without doubt the Fed is a strange beast. I believe that it is the last central bank in the world that is privately owned, although I could stand to be corrected on that one as well. The Bank of England was private until 1946 when Atlee's Labour government nationalized it.
For that matter, anybody know who owns the new European Central Bank? Barkley Rosser On Thu, 11 Feb 1999 15:05:22 -0500 Doug Henwood <dhenwood at panix.com> wrote:
> There are many details that suggest that the Federal Reserve isn't really
> part of the U.S. government. There's the fact that the USG sold the land
> for the Fed's headquarters to the Fed back in the 1930s. Then there's the
> fact that the New York Fed is listed in the white pages, not the blue
> government pages, in the Manhattan phone book. Then there's the .org suffix
> the regional Fed banks use for their websites, rather than .gov. And now,
> in looking at the federal budget accounts, I'm seeing that the Fed is
> classified as part of the "public," rather than the government, when the
> holders of U.S. government debt are broken out. No wonder Alan Greenspan
> can't understand himself!
-- Rosser Jr, John Barkley rosserjb at jmu.edu