FOIA Score: Fox 1 - Bailout Secrecy 0

FBN chalks up key win in documents case

Fox Business News scored an important victory in the WOBS (War On Bailout Secrecy), when a federal judge in Manhattan ordered the Treasury Department to turn over details of its financial bailout of key financial institutions.

As the News Corp. unit reports:

FOX Business Network has won a victory against the Treasury Department in its Freedom of Information Act request for details about the government’s bailout plan.

Judge Richard J. Holwell of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York said in a decision Friday that the government is directed to comply with FOX Business’s request under the FOIA “within 30 days and to produce a Vaughn index with 45 days.”

That means Treasury must comply with FOX Business’s request by Monday, March 23, and must produce a Vaughn index by Monday, April 6.

A Vaughn index details which documents have been withheld and why.

Fox filed its FOIA back in November and filed suit the next month after Treasury failed to comply. The Fox suit follows a sweeping FOIA request and lawsuit filed in the same court by Bloomberg LP, which wants the Federal Reserve to disclose which banks received some of the trillions in loans made under Fed emergency programs what collateral they offered in return.

The information sought under the Fox FOIA certainly is intriguing:

The initial request, filed on Nov. 25, sought actual data on the use of the bailout funds for American International Group (AIG: 0.5162, -0.0838, -13.97%) and the Bank of New York Mellon (BK: 22.78, -0.55, -2.36%), and an additional request, filed on Dec. 1, sought similar data on the bailout funds for Citigroup (C: 1.93, -0.58, -23.11%).

FBN asked the Treasury Department to identify, among other issues, the troubled assets purchased, any collateral extended, and any restrictions placed on these financial institutions for their participation in this program.

Great questions. The Citigroup info is especially apropos and overdue. The circumstances surrounding that dead-of-the-weekend deal last November to inject $20 billion in new capital (the total is now $50 billion), and, shockingly, guarantee $306 billion in toxic trash, remains one of the most under-reported stories of the crisis/scandal.

Mark your calendars for March 23. Can’t wait. Good on ya, Fox!

(UPDATE: We fixed a date to conform to a Fox correction on its story.)

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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.