For Federal Reserve-haters, here’s some more dirt.
Steve Sailer has an article describing his attempt to get data from the Fed using a Freedom Of Information Act (FOIA) request about mortgage data [Warning: the data in question involves default rates and race, so those sensitive to un-PC discussions about race are advised to avoid clicking the link].
What’s interesting is the reasoning by which his FOIA was denied:
After many weeks of delay, the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve replied with an “adverse determination” denying my request.
They offered two excuses:
- “The information you seek does not currently exist in the form you request.”
Since it obviously does exist in readily available form (Laderman and Reid couldn’t publish the adjusted ratios without first calculating the unadjusted ratios), the Board of Governors quickly moved on to the heart of their rationalization for refusal:
- “Even assuming the information could be derived and produced in the format you seek, the resulting table, like the underlying data set would be a record of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, not the Board. Accordingly, we cannot provide you with any such information.”
In other words, sure, we’ll admit that the Freedom of Information Act applies to the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve, but the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco is a private entity, so it’s above the law.
Turns out, this same reasoning was used in another famous case:
This sounded absurd, but I quickly discovered that the Board of Governors had made the exact same defence when Bloomberg News sued the Fed under the FOIA to get the inside story on the bailout of Bear Sterns in 2008. The Fed Board of Governors replied, in effect, “Hey, that wasn’t us, that was the Federal Reserve Bank of New York that bailed out Bear Stearns. And they ain’t subject to the FOIA. Ha-ha!”
Fortunately, the August 24, 2009 decision by Loretta A. Preska, Chief United States District Judge, in Bloomberg L.P. v. Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System found that the Fed had to pony up to Bloomberg the Bear Sterns documents within five working days.
So it’s not clear if the Bear Stearns case is a precedent or whether it only applied then. Either way, it seems silly that the Fed Board of Governeors is subject to FOIAs, but not the member banks, especially since that’s where a lot of the action happens.