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By ALAN FEUER
THE critical lawsuit challenging that mystery of finance known as the Bailout started, oddly enough, with a casual newsroom chat.
Mark Pittman, an investigative reporter for Bloomberg News, had filed a Freedom of Information Act request with the Federal Reserve Board, seeking the details of its unprecedented efforts to funnel money to the collapsing banks of Wall Street. Mr. Pittman, sometimes known as Bloomberg’s Yoda for his Jedi-like command of economic issues, had quietly surmised that the Fed was holding tightly to the secrets of the bailout. So he was hardly surprised when, after four months, it had failed to even answer his request. He was nonetheless annoyed. One day, even grumpier than usual, he approached his boss, Amanda Bennett, as she stood talking in the company’s East Side newsroom with an in-house lawyer named Charles Glasser.
“Pittman was this big shlumpy guy and he was wandering around going, ‘Argh argh argh,’ ” Ms. Bennett said recently. “So we asked him, ‘What’s with your FOIA?’ And Mark says — he used some colorful language — ‘They won’t answer us.’ ”
“That was when we all sat down and said, ‘So what do we do? They can’t just get away with not answering us,’ ” Ms. Bennett recalled. “Charles said, ‘You know, I suppose we could just sue the Fed.’ So we went to Matt” — Matthew Winkler, Bloomberg’s executive editor — “and said, ‘What do you think about us suing the Fed?’ ” As she recounted this story, Ms. Bennett punched her left palm with her right fist — precisely, she explained, as Mr. Winkler had. She added, “He loved it.”