The Federal Reserve may be required to make public some of its records on emergency lending programs to banks in the financial bailout, an appeals court ruled on Friday in cases brought by news organizations.
Fox News Network, a unit of News Corp., and Bloomberg LP had sought details of the central bank's actions under the Freedom of Information Act, or FOIA, which requires government agencies to make documents available to the public.
Bloomberg won its case last August in U.S. District Court in Manhattan and the Board of Governors of the central bank appealed. Fox lost its case in July.
"We remand to the district court to order the Board's further disclosure and further searches, and to determine if what is discovered in further searches must be disclosed," a three judge panel in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in New York said in a written opinion on the Fox News Network case.
"We also remand to the district court for initial consideration as to whether the Board properly construed the scope of the FOIA requests and searched its own records in response, and whether materials that may be found must be disclosed."
Bloomberg brought its case to force the Fed to release records of the actions it took to shore up the financial system starting in late 2007, including the March 2008 sale of Bear Stearns Cos to JPMorgan Chase & Co.
The Clearing House Association LLC, an industry-owned group of banks, supported the Fed's position.
Bloomberg sought information about loans conducted at the Discount Window, the Primary Dealer Credit Facility, the Term Securities Lending Facility and the Term Auction Facility. The Discount Window is the program through which the 12 Federal Reserve Banks make short-term loans.
The appeals court panel wrote that "putting aside a fair question as to whether the Federal Reserve Banks are 'persons' or agencies, we conclude that disclosure of the contested records would not cause the Federal Reserve Banks to suffer the kind of harm contemplated by the 'privileged or confidential' requirement" of an exemption under the FOIA.
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