The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press joined 12 other media organizations in filing a friend-of-the-court brief that supports reporters seeking access to public records that detail last year’s unprecedented taxpayer-funded financial bailout.
A federal court of appeals in New York City (2nd Cir.) is set to hear an appeal in Bloomberg LP’s freedom-of-information suit against the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System. The board appealed Bloomberg’s August victory in a FOIA suit that sought records relating to its $2 trillion emergency lending program.
The board denied Bloomberg’s initial records request, claiming that the records sought were not board records because they were housed at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. The board further argued that the records were exempt from disclosure under FOIA’s exemption 4, which protects confidential financial information from disclosure.
In the brief, the press organizations specifically refute the board’s contention that the records can be withheld under FOIA’s exemption 4 because the board has not met its burden of showing that disclosure is likely to cause substantial competitive harm. Therefore, the media organizations argue, any potential reputational harm is insufficient because it is purely speculative.
If the board’s overly broad reading of the exemption were to stand, “[t]he narrow exemption to protect competition would swallow the rule requiring disclosure of government actions,” the brief states. In addition, the substantial public interest in disclosure outweighs any risk of competitive harm.
Other news organizations filing the brief are Advance Publications, Inc., the American Society of News Editors, the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies, The Associated Press, Dow Jones & Company, Gannett Co., the Hearst Corporation, the Magazine Publishers of America, the National Conference of Editorial Writers, the National Newspaper Association, the New York Times Company, and Reuters America LLC.