About “Joining” That Bloomberg Suit…

Turns out other news orgs can't. But wait...

The other day I urged other news organizations to “join” the Bloomberg suit in federal court seeking bailout records under the Freedom of Information Act.

Turns out, a legal eagle tells me, it would legally awkward and not altogether useful to add plaintiffs to the Bloomberg complaint; likewise filing amicus briefs at this stage would be counterproductive since, at the trial court level, they would have to be approved by the judge, causing delays. And who needs that?

What’s more, when the Fed loses this case, and I predict it will, it must disclose the records to everyone, not just Bloomberg.

If the Fed wins at the trial court level, then various amici can chime in.

So does that mean other news organizations should do nothing until the Bloomberg case is decided? Um, no.

I would hope and expect that other news orgs would be pursuing the same story—federal expenditures on Wall Street and other banks? Who doesn’t think that’s a story?—and would already have filed their own FOIAs and, if they become necessary, lawsuits.

Each has its own angle. Each would have its own records request.

And you can’t tell me that many news organizations, either in a consortium or working separately, don’t have a better chance of forcing disclosure than one working alone. This is ultimately more a political question than a legal one. With enough public pressure, or pressure from Congress, or both, the Fed and Treasury will find a way.

If multiple FOIAs create some duplicative paperwork, what’s that compared to the stakes involved?

That’s why it’s good that Fox Business News has filed its own FOIA for bailout records and says it will sue in twenty days if it doesn’t get them.

See the next post for more.

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Dean Starkman Dean Starkman runs The Audit, CJR's business section, and is the author of The Watchdog That Didn't Bark: The Financial Crisis and the Disappearance of Investigative Journalism (Columbia University Press, January 2014). Follow Dean on Twitter: @deanstarkman.