Sheila Bair and the black marker

October 2, 2009

The other day I wrote a column about a series of meetings FDIC Chairwoman Sheila Bair had this summer with Citi Chairman Dick Parsons. The column was based on entries in Bair’s datebook, a copy of which the FDIC turned over to me in response to a FOIA request.

But here’s the thing, the FDIC actually tried to keep some of those meetings between Bair and Parsons secret–along with a number of other meetings the FDIC chairwoman had this summer. The FDIC said it needed to redact some of the entries to protect the agency’s work with the banks it regulates. The agency did this by using a simple black marker to cover over the names of some people.

The trouble is the black marker was a dud–and the names of the people Bair met with on those days were clearly visible. That’s a good thing because it would have made it much harder for me to do my story.

Did someone at the FDIC screw up? It certainly seems that way. But the public is all the better for it.

I didn’t point out this market malfunction in the column. I figured people would notice it once they started digging through the 92-page datebook, which was posted along with the column.

The loyal readers of Zerohedge, which blogged on my column, were the first to spot the FDIC’s goof and they are having a field day with this mistake.

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