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Fed Seeks Delay of Bank Data Release While Considering Appeal

The Federal Reserve Board sought to delay the court-ordered release of documents identifying banks that might have failed without the U.S. government bailout while it considers an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The Fed asked the U.S. Court of Appeals in New York yesterday to delay implementation of a ruling that compels the central bank to release the documents.

“The stay is necessary to permit the board to consult with the Department of Justice regarding an appeal to the Supreme Court,” Fed spokesman David Skidmore said.

The appeals court on Aug. 20 denied the Fed’s request to reconsider its decision requiring it to release records of the $2 trillion U.S. loan program.

If the stay is granted, the central bank and the Clearing House Association LLC, an organization of 20 commercial banks that joined the Fed in defense of the lawsuit, will have 90 days to petition the Supreme Court to consider an appeal. The Clearing House has said already it will ask the high court to rule on the case.

At issue are 231 “term sheets” documenting Fed loans to financial firms during 2008. The records, which include the banks’ names and the amounts borrowed, were originally requested by late Bloomberg News reporter Mark Pittman through the Freedom of Information Act, which allows citizens access to government papers.

The appeals court upheld a decision of a lower-court judge who in August 2009 ordered that the information be released.

The Fed argued in the case, which was brought by Bloomberg LP, the parent of Bloomberg News, that disclosure of the documents threatens to stigmatize borrowers and cause them “severe and irreparable competitive injury,” discouraging banks in distress from seeking help.

The case is Bloomberg LP v. Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System, 09-04083, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit (New York).

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