Treasury Tries to Ignore Citigroup-Related Freedom of Information Requests

Wednesday, October 27, 2010
Timothy Geithner, Secretary of the Treasury
Bloomberg News has tried since January 2009 to obtain information from the Department of the Treasury about $301 billion of securities owned by Citigroup that the government has agreed to guarantee. Despite President Barack Obama’s promise to make his administration more open than his predecessor’s, the Treasury Department has stonewalled Bloomberg over its Freedom of Information Act request. It did turn over 560 pages of heavily-redacted emails to the news service which were not the ones requested and which did not answer Bloomberg’s questions about the names of the Citigroup securities or the dates and terms of government guarantees.
The U.S. government remains the largest shareholder of Citigroup at 12.4%.
The Obama administration’s refusal to live by its promise of making government more transparent may be adding to the economy’s slow recovery, Joseph Mason, a finance professor at the E. J. Ourso College of Business at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge, told Bloomberg.
“Investors who don’t have information are investors who refuse to place funds in markets,” Mason said. “If we want investment and economic growth to resume, we want to be forthright about what happened. The longer we keep investors in the dark, the longer that low economic growth will persist.”
Tom Fitton, president of the conservative Judicial Watch, observed that “When it comes to the bank bailout, the Obama administration has made a decision to err on the side of secrecy.”
The Treasury Department has taken the position that the secrecy is justified on grounds of protecting trade secrets, personnel practices, attorney-client privilege and personal privacy.
-Noel Brinkerhoff, David Wallechinsky


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