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dataThe Federal Reserve Board must disclose documents identifying financial firms that might have collapsed without the largest ever U.S. government bailout, a federal appeals court said.

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The U.S. Court of Appeals in Manhattan ruled today that the Fed must release records of the unprecedented $2 trillion US loan program launched primarily after the 2008 collapse of Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. The ruling upholds a decision of a lower-court judge, who in August ordered that the information be released.

The Fed had argued that it could withhold the information under an exemption that allows federal agencies to refuse disclosure of “trade secrets and commercial or financial information obtained from a person and privileged or confidential.”

The U.S. Freedom of Information Act, or FOIA, “sets forth no basis for the exemption the Board asks us to read into it,” U.S. Circuit Chief Judge Dennis Jacobs wrote in the opinion. “If the Board believes such an exemption would better serve the national interest, it should ask Congress to amend the statute.”

The opinion may not be the final word in the bid for the documents, which was launched by Bloomberg LP, the parent of Bloomberg News, with a November 2008 lawsuit. The Fed may seek a rehearing or appeal to the full appeals court and eventually petition the U.S. Supreme Court….

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