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Treasury Touts Long-Available Derivatives Report As A Part Of Its 'New' Open Government Plan

First Posted: 03/18/10 06:12 AM ET Updated: 05/25/11 03:55 PM ET

Treasury Building

This morning, the folks at the U.S. Treasury Department put out a press release announcing their "Open Government Plan," which they are touting as a "New Information Sharing Effort" that "Promotes [a] Culture of Transparency, Collaboration, Participation." The release reads, in part:

As part of a commitment to increase transparency in government and maintain accountability of taxpayer dollars, the U.S. Department of the Treasury today announced an open government effort that will increase public access to data and information. Under this initiative, Treasury has compiled and will now make available new data on tax returns, more user friendly information on transactions under the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP), and a new report on bank trading and derivatives.

It's new! And it's now! Except, of course, for the component of this "Open Government Plan" that's actually been available for over a decade that the Treasury is now attempting to pass off as something they've just introduced.

Quarterly Report on Bank Trading and Derivatives. This new report, made available by the Office of the Comptroller of Currency, provides information on the federal government's supervision of banks as well as the investment activities of financial institutions.

Yeah, see, that "new report" has actually been available since 1995. You can look it up! The Huffington Post's own business reporter Shahien Nasiripour tells me, "I've written many, many articles on derivatives, and I've been using this report for a long time."

The release cites two additional "new" innovations: new data from the Internal Revenue Service on taxpayer "migration patterns" and a new "format" for transactions being made under the Troubled Asset Relief Program. One used to be available for a fee; the other in a slightly less useful PDF format, so that's all well and good -- but as examples of "new" frontiers in government transparency, it's pretty weak tea.

So it's really no wonder that the Treasury would pad these scant offerings out with a report that financial reporters have been using very effectively, for years.

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