JW Sues Fed for Records Detailing U.S. Taxpayer Bailout of European Banks

JW Sues Fed for Records Detailing U.S. Taxpayer Bailout of European Banks

Why on Earth is our government sending billions upon billions of dollars overseas to bail out European banks?

That question is at the center of a new Judicial Watch investigation as we continue our effort to force the Obama administration to come clean on all aspects of the ongoing bailouts – which began five years ago and, despite what some politicians may tell you, never really ended. 

Last Tuesday we sued the Board of Governors for the Federal Reserve System and the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC), a committee within the Federal Reserve, for records detailing the Fed’s December 2011 taxpayer-funded bailouts of European Banks.

But wait a moment.

Didn’t Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke say in a December 14, 2011, meeting with Senate Republicans that he lacked the authority to use taxpayer dollars to bail out troubled European banks? Yes, he reportedly did just that.

However, a “currency swap” program extended by the Fed on November 30, 2011, led to nearly $95 billion in loans to the European Central Bank in December 2011 alone.

Let’s take a look at how this “swap” works.

Under what is known as a “temporary U.S. dollar liquidity swap arrangement,” the Fed lends U.S. dollars to foreign central banks which then auction these dollars off to their local banks. The Fed’s stated intent for initiating the program was to ease lending for European banks during the financial crisis.

The Fed initiated the program in December 2007 and allowed it to expire in February 2010. In May 2010, the Fed rebooted the program, and on November 30, 2011, extended it through February 1, 2013. This extension prompted a sharp increase from $400 million to $95 billion in loans in December 2011.

How is this different from any other run-of-the-mill bailout? It isn’t. And that’s why we want to uncover as many details as possible about why these swaps are taking place and under what circumstances.

On January 3, 2012, we submitted Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests seeking communications between the Federal Reserve Board of Governors, the FOMC, the Federal Reserve Bank of New York and the European Central Bank related to the November 30, 2011, currency swap extension. We also want access to records describing the justification for extending the currency swap program, as well as individual details regarding each swap transaction.

Moreover, given that little information is available to the public regarding the identities of the recipients of currency swap funds, Judicial Watch also seeks “any and all records identifying, describing, or setting forth the identity of any bank or financial institution and the collateral offered by the bank or financial institution,” between December 5, 2011, through December 31, 2011.

Here’s why this last request is important, per Bloomberg:

For all the transparency forced on the Federal Reserve by Congress and the courts, one of the central bank’s emergency-lending programs remains so secretive that names of borrowers may be hidden from the Fed itself.

As part of a currency-swap plan active from 2007 to 2010 and revived to fight the European debt crisis, the Fed lends dollars to other central banks, which auction them to local commercial banks…While the transactions with other central banks are all disclosed, the Fed doesn’t track where the dollars ultimately end up, and European officials don’t share borrowers’ identities outside the continent.

The Federal Reserve Bank of New York reports that, as of March 31, the European Central Bank had $33 billion in outstanding swaps. The secrecy of these arrangements has been criticized by Gerald O’Driscoll, a former Vice President of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, as “bailing out European banks and, indirectly, spendthrift European governments. It is difficult to count the number of things wrong with this arrangement.”

Regarding our basic FOIA request, the Federal Reserve Board of Governors and the FOMC can’t say it was “lost in the mail.” The stonewalling is intentional. Both entities acknowledged receipt of our records request on January 3, 2012, and were required by law to respond by February 1, 2012. However, as of the date of Judicial Watch’s lawsuit, neither defendant has submitted a lawful response to Judicial Watch’s original FOIA request.

Chairman Bernanke can dress it up in whatever language he chooses, but these “currency swaps” are nothing more than massive bailouts of European banks. That we have to sue to get basic information about this massive bailout speaks volumes about the dubious nature of this under-the-radar program.

But this secrecy is not altogether surprising considering that we have had to sue the “super transparent” Obama administration for records related to the bailout/government takeover of U.S. companies. At this point, with trillions of dollars now committed to this Big Government takeover of the private sector, we still do not have any answers regarding the legal justification used to authorize the bailouts.

No Congress voted to bail out Europe. And no president, let alone this one, signed a law authorizing such a bailout. From the beginning, the bailouts have been marked by contempt for the rule of law.  And, now, with a massive secret bailout of “Europe” underway, there seems to be no controlling legal authority for our nation’s central bank and the politicians who refuse to seriously police the Fed’s activities. Judicial Watch aims to change that and bring sunlight and the rule of law to this out-of-control government operation.