Fed Release Is Absurdly Redacted

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The Federal Reserve released 513 pages of previously unseen transcripts of policy meetings that took place between 2007 and 2010—and most of them are so heavily redacted that they elicit laughter.

Take the entry from March 10, 2008. It begins with these words.

CHAIRMAN BERNANKE: Good evening, everybody. I am sorry, once again, to have to call you together on short notice. We live in a very special time.

That sounds like the start to a very interesting meeting. Unfortunately, the remainder of that page is redacted. In fact, the next 31 pages are redacted. We’re left guessing what it was that led Bernanke to talk about living in a “very special time.”

In this case, it’s easy to guess: very likely, the impending collapse of Bear Stearns and central bank preparations for a global liquidity crunch. The following day, the Fed announced the creation of the Term Securities Lending Facility (TSLF), one of the first of many bailout facilities the Fed would launch to prop up the financial system. It also increased its swap lines with the ECB and the Swiss National Bank.

Let’s fast-forward to the meeting of Sept. 16, 2008, when Lehman Brothers was collapsing. Surely this would make for interesting reading—if it weren’t redacted to the point of being almost a blank slate.

It starts off:

CHAIRMAN BERNANKE. Good morning, everybody. Sorry for the late beginning.

What follows is 15 pages of redacted material.

Finally, when we are allowed to peek back into the meeting, Bernanke says: “Anything else? All right. Do you want to call the roll on this one?”

The Federal Reserve has been releasing its transcripts on a five-year delay. It released these early, following a Freedom of Information Act request from MSNBC’s Dylan Ratigan show. And, apparently, decided to redact them very heavily.

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