ECB Wins Court Ruling to Keep Greek Swap Information Secret

The European Central Bank won’t have to disclose how Greece used derivatives to hide its debt after the European Union’s top court quashed efforts to make the information public.

The European Union Court of Justice, in a Feb. 6 decision, rejected a freedom-of-information request by Bloomberg News to access two internal ECB papers, citing procedural errors.

European taxpayers, bearing the cost of Greece’s 240 billion-euro ($329 billion) bailout, won’t learn whether EU officials knew of irregularities in Greece’s public accounts before they became public in 2009. The case was the first legal challenge to a refusal by the ECB to make public details of its decision-making process.

“Our case has always been about the public’s right to know if EU officials allowed Greece to hide its deficit, which helped trigger Europe’s debt crisis,” Bloomberg News Editor-in-Chief Matthew Winkler said. “We are disappointed with the court’s ruling and we will continue our work to bring more transparency to markets in Europe and around the world.”

Bloomberg’s freedom-of-information request was twice rejected by the ECB before the news organization sued in December 2010. A lower EU court in 2012 ruled that disclosing the documents “would have undermined the protection of the public interest so far as concerns the economic policy of the European Union and Greece.”

Bloomberg sought access to two internal papers drafted for the central bank’s six-member executive board. The first document is entitled “The impact on government deficit and debt from off-market swaps: the Greek case.” The second reviews Titlos Plc, a structure that allowed National Bank of Greece SA, the country’s biggest lender, to borrow from the ECB by creating collateral.

“The ECB has taken note of the court’s ruling,” the Frankfurt-based ECB said in a statement. “We are content with it.” The case is: C-28/13 P, Thesing and Bloomberg Finance v. ECB.

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