Bloomberg News Goes After the Fed

Posted: 29 January 2009 by Editors in National News
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Bloomberg’s request for the Federal [sic] Reserve to open its books on how its loaning out hundreds of billions on the backs of hurting people gives the Fed 20 more days to comply.


U.S. government guarantees on securities totaling $419 billion for bank bailouts provide an early test of President Barack Obama’s pledge to be open with taxpayers about what they have at risk in the credit crisis.

Bloomberg News asked the Treasury Department Jan. 26 to disclose what securities it backed over the past two months in a second round of actions to prop up Bank of America Corp. and Citigroup Inc. Department spokeswoman Stephanie Cutter said Jan. 27 she would seek an answer. None had been provided by the close of business yesterday.

Last fall, the Federal Reserve declined to identify the recipients of about $2 trillion in emergency loans from U.S. taxpayers or the assets the central bank is accepting as collateral.

Bloomberg News asked for details of the lending on May 21 and filed a federal lawsuit against the Fed Nov. 7 seeking to force disclosure. The loans were made under the terms of what became 11 programs in the midst of the biggest financial crisis since the Great Depression. Arguments in the suit may be heard by a judge as soon as next month, according to the court docket.

Bloomberg filed a [Freedom of Information Act] request yesterday for the list of what was covered by the Citigroup and Bank of America guarantees. Bloomberg asked for records on the fees paid by banks to the government, which securities were rejected for guarantees, as well as any contracts for data services and experts to assess the value of the securities.

Under the information law, passed by Congress in 1966, Treasury has 20 working days to respond to Bloomberg’s request. The measure allows nine exemptions, such as trade secrets or national security, for blocking disclosure….

Citigroup’s guarantee package, completed Jan. 16, totals $301 billion. It kicks in after the bank goes through its $9.5 billion in current loan loss reserves and the first $29 billion of losses. The government also gets $1 billion of the bank’s benefit from hedging contracts. The Treasury, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. and the Fed then assume 90 percent of losses from those assets….

Citigroup has received $45 billion in cash from selling preferred securities to the government under the Troubled Asset Relief Program.

Bank of America’s agreement, announced the same day, is similar: $20 billion in cash aid, bringing the total to $45 billion, and $118 billion in asset guarantees. The government said the assets included securities backed by residential and commercial real estate loans and corporate debt and associated derivatives and hedges. Scott Silvestri, a spokesman for the Charlotte, North Carolina-based bank, declined comment.

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