A First Glance At US Official Gold Reserves Audits
I probably missed this story because I didn’t have a blog when this came out in 2011, but apparently the official gold reserves of the United States are being audited every year. I thought the last audit was done in 1974, based on information from the mainstream and alternative media; darn media! Though I haven’t been the only one who has ever been misinformed on this subject.
Ron Paul, who was a a well informed member of the US House of Representatives in 2011, proposed new legislation at the time to have yearly audits of the US official gold reserves: The Gold Reserve Transparency Act (not enacted). Only during the preparation of the congressional hearing Dr Paul became aware there had been yearly audits in recent decades. Strangely the biggest proponent of a gold standard in US politics didn’t have access to this information prior to the investigation. From Paul’s opening statement at the hearing June 23, 2011:
In a way, it seems as though someone decided to lock up the gold, put the key in a desk somewhere, and walk off without telling anyone anything. Only during the preparation for this hearing was my office informed that the Mint has in fact conducted assays of statistically representative samples of gold bars, and we were provided with a sample assay report.
…This information should be published and available to the American people. This gold belongs to the people, especially since much of it was forcibly taken from them in the 1930s, and the Government owes it to the people to provide them with the details of these holdings. We would greatly benefit from a full, accurate inventory audit and assay with detailed explanations of who owns the gold and who is responsible for ownership, custody, and auditing.
After digging through a few documents (source 1, source 2, source 3) regarding the US official gold reserves and audits that have been done from 1974 till present, I decided to write a post purely based on data published by the US government. This post will be part one of a series.
All Official Gold Reserves Stored On US Soil
In total the US official gold reserves account for 8134 metric tonnes, this gold is owned by the US Treasury. It was handed over to the Treasury by the Federal Reserve in 1934, which in return received gold certificates. Currently these certificates on the balance sheet of the Federal Reserve are still valued at $42.22 – this statutory value was set in 1973. In my view the price of gold on the Fed’s balance sheet was never revalued to mark to market to deny gold’s true value and mask the weakness of the dollar in order to sustain the US dollar hegemony. Note, technically the gold certificates can’t be redeemed for gold, only for dollars.
Currently the US Mint is the custodian for 95 % of the Treasury’s gold, this is stored in 42 vault compartments at three different locations in the US. 4583 metric tonnes is stored at Fort Knox, Kentucky, 1364 metric tonnes at Denver, Colorado, and 1682 at West Point, New York. Additionally the US Mint holds roughly 70 metric tonnes in blank coins and working stock.
The Federal Reserve Bank of New York is the custodian of the remaining 5 % of the Treasury’s gold. 418 metric tonnes rest at the bedrock underneath 33 Liberty street, New York. Build in the early 1920’s this vault has 122 compartments that have a combined maximum capacity of over 12,000 metric tonnes. Excluding the 418 metric tonnes of the US Treasury, at this moment 6196 metric tonnes are being stored at the NY Fed for 60 sovereign nations and the IMF. According to my findings it’s not known how much every single nation has deposited – except for Germany, 1520 metric tonnes, and The Netherlands, 300 metric tonnes.
Click here to track the total of official foreign gold deposits held at the NY Fed.
In the sreen shot below we can see the Federal Reserve values not only its own gold holdings at $42.22, but also the gold it stores for foreign nations. One could say this is done for the simplicity of accounting, I would say it supports the US dollar hegemony paradigm.
Some central banks disclose the floating value of gold on their balance sheet, this acknowledges the true value of gold and the anchor, or sun, it represents in the monetary system; the value of fiat currencies can rise and fall relative to gold. This is a screen shot of the balance sheet of the ECB, their gold is valued mark to market:
How much gold from the IMF is stored at the NY Fed is also unknown. I tried to ask the IMF, but this institution appears to be impossible to penetrate regarding gold inquiries. They don’t handle any inquiries over the phone, the only entrance is an email address that repeatedly returned me the usual:
Given security concerns, the information you request is not available for public consumption.
We hope for your understanding.
Office of Public Affairs
International Monetary Fund
The WGC, surprisingly, was also unable to help.
At this moment the only information I have is from a statement in writing (page 64) by Eric Thorson, US Inspector General, in 2011:
The U.S. gold contributions to the IMF are not included in the U.S. gold reserves reported by the Mint or Treasury. From 1947 through 1970, the U.S. paid its initial quota subscription and subsequent increases to that quota subscription to the IMF in four separate contributions. Those contributions were in the form of gold and were each valued at the time the payments were made. Overall, the U.S. contributed 47.9 million ounces [1490 metric tonnes] of gold, to the IMF.
…It should be noted that once the gold contribution to the IMF was made, it became the property of the IMF. In return, the U.S. received a claim on the IMF equal to the amount of its gold payment. To reiterate, this amount is not included in the U.S. gold reserves. It is our understanding that the gold contributed by the U.S., as well as gold contributed by other countries to the IMF is commingled.
We have been told that the IMF holds its gold in the following Central Banks: the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, the Bank of England, the Bank of France, and the Central Bank of India.
If the IMF’s gold is stored at central banks I can’t understand the safety concerns they mentioned. Which of these central bank’s vault is not safe?
Audits Of The US Official Gold Reserves
On September 23, 1974, members of Congress were invited to inspect the US official gold reserves stored at Fort Knox. Following the Congressional inspection, which involved removal of the seals and opening selected vault compartments, an audit was conducted in September and October 1974. The General Accounting Office (GAO), in cooperation with auditors from the Mint, Bureau of Government Financial Operations (BGFO), US Customs Service, and the Treasury Department’s Office of Audit conducted an audit of 21 % of the gold bars stored at Fort Knox. Assay tests were taken. In the report of the audit, the GAO recommended for continuing audits of the gold in custody of the Mint.
During the Congressional inspection the press was also allowed to enter Fort Knox and take pictures, which could have been the reason this audit kept buzzin around in the media for many decades as the last audit.
There have been several audits after 1974. On June 3, 1975 the Secretary of the Treasury ordered a committee, consisting of the Bureau of Government Financial Operations (BGFO), the Mint and the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, to conduct Continuing Audits of all United States Government-owned Gold. The order was designed to audit 10 % of the Treasury’s gold per annum.
Audits Of The US Official Gold Reserves At The Mint
As mentioned before the US Mint is the custodian of all the US Government-owned gold not stored at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. In 1975 the staffs from the BGFO and the Mint were appointed to audit the gold stored at the Mint. During this process the gold bars were physically moved from one vault compartment to another. The melt numbers and the number of bars in each melt were verified with an inventory list (one melt averages about 20 bars cast from one crucible of molten gold). One in fifty melts was randomly selected for weighing and assaying.
This was done from 1975 to 1986, placing all inventoried vault compartments that it observed and tested under Official Joint SeaI. In 1986, 97 percent of the gold stored at the Mint had been audited.
Statement Eric Thorson from the Office Inspector General (IG) in 2011:
In June 1975, the Treasury Secretary authorized and directed a continuing audit of U.S. Government-owned gold for which Treasury is accountable. Pursuant to that order, the Committee for Continuing Audit of the U.S. Government-owned Gold performed annual audits of Treasury’s gold reserves from 1975 to 1986, placing all inventoried gold that it observed and tested under an official joint seal.
…The committee was made up of staff from Treasury, the Mint, and the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. The annual audits by the committee ended in 1986 after 97 percent of the Government- owned gold held by the Mint had been audited and placed under official joint seal.
From 1986 to 1992, the Mint continued on it’s own to perform annual audits in accordance with its own policies over those compartments that had not been placed under Official Joint Seal by the committee.
In 1993 the Office Inspector General Department of the Treasury (IG) took over and began conducting the annual audits of the Mint’s gold, including the Mint’s financial statements. For the first time an independent private contractor, KPMG, was hired to verify all statements. Additionally KPMG accompanied the IG on a number of observations in the vaults. To my understanding the IG has only assayed the final 3 % of gold held at the Mint that wasn’t placed under Joint Seal before 1986 under supervision of KPMG. Assay test that are published were conducted by the private firm Ledoux & Company (2004) and a US army branch White Sands Missile Range (2005-2008). Furthermore the yearly audits consisted of checking the Joint Seals that were placed on 97 % of the Mint’s gold before 1986.
By 2008 all gold held at the Mint, 7715 metric tonnes, was placed under Official Joint Seal. I haven’t found anything about the IG ever breaking old Joint Seals (pre 1986) to re-audit and assay gold in those compartments under the supervision of KPMG.
In 2010 the IG decided to renew all Joint Seals of the 42 vault compartments of the US Mint in the presence of an auditor of the IG itself and staff from the Mint. KPMG did not attend this procedure although KPMG had been contracted to supervise the audits since 1993. I find this remarkable as KPMG’s job was mainly to check the Official Joint Seals every year. Why didn’t they attend when these seals were broken and renewed in 2010?
From a statement (page 48) by Eric Thorson (IG) in 2011:
As discussed earlier, by the end of fiscal year 2008, all of the deep storage gold reserves in the Mint’s custody had been 100 percent inventoried and audited. During our fiscal year 2010 and 2009 audits of the deep storage gold, our audit procedures consisted primarily of inspecting the Official Joint Seals on the previously inventoried compartments to determine whether they had been altered or compromised in any way. We found no exceptions.
More recently the Mint decided to replace all of the previously placed Official Joint Seals with new seals. The new seals are more durable, having a double security barrier seal that can only be removed by two cuts with a strong cable cutter.
The Mint replaced all of the previously placed Official Joint Seals with new ones during fiscal year 2010. The seal replacement process consisted of two steps: (1) inspection of all previously placed Official Joint Seals on all the compartments containing deep storage gold to determine whether they had been altered or compromised in any way, and (2) placement of a new Official Joint Seal. The seal inspection and replacement process was carried out for all 42 deep storage gold compartments, in the presence of a Treasury OIG auditor, by a Mint headquarter staff person, representing the Mint Director, and a Mint storage facility staff person, representing the facility’s Plant Manager. For each Official Joint Seal removed, the Mint headquarters representative, the Mint storage facility representative, and the observing Treasury OIG auditor signed an inspection report; the same parties also signed the new Official Joint Seal that replaced the one removed.
Audits Of The US Official Gold Reserves At Federal Reserve Bank Of New York
US Treasury’s gold held at the NY Fed was audited periodically from 1975 to 1985 only by examiners of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System. No independent private firm was contracted. The audit procedures followed were different from those at the Mint, as there were no assay samples taken to verify the purity of the gold. In 1985 the NY Fed ceased its audits completely.
It wasn’t until Ron Paul proposed The Gold Transparency Act in 2011 when he pressured Inspector General (IG) Eric Thorson to do an audit of the Treasury’s gold at the NY Fed. The hearing of Thorson, that was part of the investigation for the proposed legislation, revealed some remarkable facts.
Dr Paul confronted Thorson with the 31 U.S. Code § 5302 law (1982) on the Exchange Stabilization Fund (ESF) that states:
Subject to approval by the President, the fund [ESF] is under the exclusive control of the Secretary of the Treasury… Decisions of the Secretary are final and may not be reviewed by another officer or employee of the Government.
…The Secretary or an agency designated by the Secretary, with the approval of the President, may deal in gold, foreign exchange, and other instruments of credit and securities the Secretary considers necessary.
Thorson responded that gold stored at the Mint can’t be used for such dealings, but he declined to mention that the gold at the NY Fed perhaps can. (Page 55)
Thorson also stated in 2011 (Page 55):
It should be noted that we are currently working with the Department and the FRB-NY to inventory and audit the Treasury gold that is on deposit with the FRB-NY. As part of the audit, we plan to obtain independent assays of a sample of the gold bars.
After this promise the IG published an audit report in 2012, done without the supervision of KPMG, of the Treasury’s gold stored at the NY Fed. In the report we can’t find any assay tests, though there has been a bar list of the 418 metric tonnes released. (page 129)
The NY Fed claims to have always done continuing audits on their own behalf (page 54):
The FRB-NY holds gold deposits on behalf of a number of account-holders, including the U.S. Govrnment. Upon depositing gold, FRB—NY matches the markings on each bar to the customer’s deposit manifest, and verifies the gross weight of the bars deposited. The FRB—NY refers to this process as earmarking the gold. Once the gold is earmarked, it is physically segregated, for the most part, by account holder. Once segregated, the gold is physically safeguarded and held under what the FRB-NY calls a triple control, continuous audit process. According to the FRB-NY, its continuous audit process includes three-party certification/presence anytime a vault is opened. So, when a vault is opened, it must be done in the presence of one representative from vault custodian team one, one representative from vault custodian team two, and one representative from the intemal audit staff. Furthermore, there are two separate combination locks (the combination of each known only to the respective vault custodian team representative), one audit lock, and an audit seal on every compartment containing customer gold. The FRB-NY also confirms the gold holdings of its respective customers upon request.
End of part one.
In Gold We Trust