ASNE urges Second Circuit to order release of Fed loan documents

The Society joined an amicus brief filed in connection with an appeal by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, which has been ordered to release information to Bloomberg News under the Freedom of Information Act. Bloomberg is seeking documents relating to the collateral pledged in support of federal bailout loans. The amicus was initiated by Hearst and joined by 11 other media companies and press advocacy groups.

The American Society of News Editors joins the National Newspaper Association and 11 other media companies and press advocacy groups this week in urging the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit (New York) to require the Federal Reserve to release information on loans provided to banks under the federal bailout program last year.

The court is hearing the appeal of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, which has been ordered to release information under the Freedom of Information Act to Bloomberg News. Bloomberg sued FRBNY in 2008 for refusing to disclose information about the collateral pledged in support of federal bailout loans. Fox News and The New York Times were also in court in New York seeking records from the Fed.

Media organizations that defend open government and freedom of information joined an amicus brief initiated by the Hearst Corporation and drafted by media law firm, Levine Sullivan, Koch and Schulz. The groups asked the court to affirm a decision of the U.S. District Court in Manhattan that the loan information records are public documents.

The FOIA request that initiated the dispute was filed by Bloomberg reporter Mark Pittman for reports on securities posted as collateral by banks and on other records relevant to the 2008 bank bailout. The New York bank claimed it was not required to respond to FOIA requests and that the records requested were exempt as confidential business information.

The media brief said:

“The public has an overriding interest in disclosure of basic facts surrounding the board’s unprecedented authorization of new lending programs as part of this effort. Under these programs, the Federal Reserve Banks supervised by the board have loaned more than $2 trillion, and have done so without disclosing the recipients of these enormous sums or the terms of their loans. Disclosure of this basic information is essential to fulfill FOIA’s core purpose opening agency action “to the sharp eye of public scrutiny.”

"It's contorted logic, and arrogant, for the Federal Reserve to seek to dodge scrutiny for its management of the public's money," said Martin Kaiser, ASNE president and editor of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. "We're pleased to support the media companies who are actively waging the battle for this information."

NNA government relations director Robert M Williams Jr., publisher of The Blackshear (Ga.) Times, applauded Bloomberg, Fox News and The New York Times for using FOIA to follow the money spent on the financial institution bailouts.

“Main Street America, where our community newspapers operate, have felt the heavy blows of the economic collapse created by recklessness at some financial institutions,” he said. “It has inflicted damage that may take years to thoroughly repair. The least the federal government can do is to help us understand how it spent our money.”

Also on the brief were Advance Publications, Inc; Association of Alternative Newsweeklies; The Associated Press; Dow Jones & Company, Inc; Gannett Company, Inc.; Hearst, Magazine Publishers of America, Inc.; the National Conference of Editorial Writers; The New York Times Co.; Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press; and Reuters America.