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Unseal the Doomsday Book!

posted by Adam Levitin

When I first heard about the NY Fed's Doomsday book, my initial thought was, "Wow, they've got a comprehensive survey of land titles, so MERS really isn't an issue!" Then I realized it was a Doomsday book, not a Domesday book. Apparently the Doomsday book is some sort of "in case of emergency" do-it-yourself bailouts manual that outlines the steps the NY Fed believes it can legally take to stave off economic Armageddon. 

I'm rather puzzled by the NY Fed's claim that it should be kept under seal.  I guess we'll find out more of the Fed's reasoning soon enough, but it hardly seems to be particularly sensitive of secret information.  This isn't the Coca-Cola recipe or some sort of trade secret. It's hard to believe that we didn't see the full panoply of the Fed's bailout powers on display in 2008, and perhaps then some. (A colleague has suggested that they might be developing some sort of secret, stress-tested, boilerplate clad bailout machine in the basement of the NY Fed. Of course such a bailoutbot would exercise its own free-living-will. Its only vulnerability would be following a haircut.)

The fact that the Doomsday book apparently contains legal advice is not a seal issue--that's a privilege issue. Once that privilege is waived (I'm guessing it has been), I can't see why the fact that the document includes legal advice presents cause for remaining under seal. 

Courts have a lot of discretion in what they can allow to remain under seal, but I just don't see the Doomsday book as fiting into traditional categories of sealed documents. But as I said, we will see.  

Comments

Pure speculation here but I think the best reason to keep it sealed is so that SIFIs and other market actors don't readjust their strategies and positions in a way that they believe will be to their benefit in a crisis.

I would absolutely love to read it and hear discussions and debates about it but the second its released to the public the legal teams will go to work to get around some of the less favorable parts of the FRBNY playbook.

Kevin is right, not that it's a valid reason for keeping secrets.

These financial companies, big banks, can be expected to rearrange their affairs to qualify for the most free handouts they can. Is there a countermeasure for that? I dunno.

The healthcare insurance companies have sure arranged themselves to benefit from Obamacare. The biggest example of that is Kaiser, which before Obamacare was nothing resembling insurance at all. They were a "prepaid medical service". Now, they are an insurance company. They had to be or they would not have been able to join the gravy train.

Kevin, there may not be any less favorable parts. I assume it's all good for the ones it's for. They're gonna love it.

I assume this will take away their business risk. Who wouldn't love that?

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