The string of FOIA lawsuits for release of records of the government’s emergency lending programs finally saw its first victory Monday. The Federal Reserve Board must release to Bloomberg News records identifying the financial firms it loaned bailout funds to as well as the assets or amounts put up as collateral, the news agency reported.
Chief Judge Loretta Preska in Manhattan federal court issued the first ruling requiring disclosure in a handful of suits in New York federal court brought separately by Bloomberg, Fox News and the New York Times. Bloomberg reported that she rejected the argument that the records were exempt from release under FOIA because they might harm the competitive advantage of the borrowers.
Bloomberg filed a FOIA request in May 2008 to learn more about the more than $2 trillion in taxpayer-funded loans issued by the Federal Reserve Board. The Federal Reserve System encompasses 12 regional banks, including the New York Federal Reserve Bank which runs most of the loan programs. While the Federal Reserve Board in Washington is subject to FOIA, a court decision held that the regional banks are not "agencies" and not subject to the law. However, Preska ordered the Fed to look for more records within the New York bank to satisfy Bloomberg’s records request.
In late July, Judge Alvin Hellerstein also of the Manhattan federal court held the "discount window loan" records at issue in the Fox News lawsuit were properly withheld from the public because they may contain trade secrets or confidential information protected under FOIA counter to Preska’s findings for the records at issue in this case.