The New York Fed vs. The Whistleblower

A federal judge in Manhattan is pondering whether to grant the request of the New York Federal Reserve to seal the case brought by former senior bank examiner Carmen Segarra.


As reported by ProPublica last week, Segarra filed a lawsuit against the New York Fed and three of its employees alleging she had been wrongfully terminated last year after she determined that Goldman Sachs had insufficient conflict-of-interest policies.

On Friday, the Fed asked for a protective order to seal documents in the case as well as parts of the complaint. In a letter to U.S. District Judge Ronnie Abrams, New York Fed counsel David Gross said the information should be removed from the public docket because it is “Confidential Supervisory Information,” including internal New York Fed emails and materials provided to the Fed by Goldman.

“These documents show that at the time (Segarra) left the employ of the New York Fed, she purloined property of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System,” Gross wrote, citing Fed rules that prohibit disclosing supervisory information without prior approval of the Fed.

Gross argues that the Fed’s obligation to keep bank supervisory records secret outweigh the public’s right to know. “The incantation of a ‘public right to know’ cannot ever be a license to discharged employees that they may violate Federal law simply by filing a complaint in Federal court,” Gross wrote.

Segarra and her lawyer could not be reached for comment.

While Abrams considers her decision, Segarra’s lawsuit and appended documents have been removed from Pacer, the online records system for federal courts. The complaint and related documents are available via links in ProPublica’s story and have been published elsewhere online.

Gross states in his letter that Segarra previously made a $7 million settlement offer. The Fed rejected it.

The New York Fed has historically been one of the most opaque financial regulators and maintains that it is not subject to the Freedom of Information Act because it is not a public agency.

Under new powers granted to it by Congress, the Federal Reserve System carries responsibility for ensuring that the nation’s most complex financial institutions are not posing a systemic threat to the world economy.

Because of its location, the New York Fed supervises the majority of the so-called “Too- Big-to-Fail” banks. New York Fed officials acknowledge that the institution failed in its regulatory responsibilities in the lead-up to the financial crisis.

A hearing on the Fed’s request is scheduled for tomorrow in Abrams’ court.

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