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Fed to name emergency borrowers

The Federal Reserve plans to release documents Thursday identifying banks that received Fed loans to survive the financial crisis.

The central bank is being forced to take the action because commercial banks had lost a court battle to keep the information private.

During the crisis, the Fed had argued that releasing the names of banks that drew the emergency loans could cause a run on them, defeating the purpose of the program.

At the height of the financial crisis in the fall of 2008, the Fed loaned as much as $110 billion through its "discount" loan window. Hardly any loans are now being made through the program because banks are in stronger financial shape, and economic conditions have improved.

The Fed has long acted as a lender of last resort, offering commercial banks loans through its discount window when they couldn't obtain financing elsewhere. The Fed has kept secret the identities of such borrowers.

During the crisis, the Fed temporarily extended the emergency loan program to investment houses. The names of those borrowers, however, were released in early December.

At that time, the Fed also revealed details about all of its crisis-lending programs -- except for commercial banks that drew loans through its discount window program.

Most of the Fed's crisis-era lending -- more than $3 trillion worth -- came through those other programs. Fed documents showed that it had given trillions in emergency aid to U.S. and foreign banks as well as companies ranging from General Electric Co. to Harley-Davidson during the financial crisis. The disclosures were required under a financial overhaul law passed last year.

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