The Federal Reserve said on March 31, 2011, it would...

The Federal Reserve said on March 31, 2011, it would release data on its emergency aid to banks after the Supreme Court rejected arguments to keep it secret. Credit: Getty Images, 2009

WASHINGTON -- The Federal Reserve is naming the banks that drew emergency loans during the financial crisis, offering information on its oldest lending tool for the first time in the central bank's nearly 100-year history.

The Fed was compelled to make the information public after the Supreme Court rejected a bid by major banks to keep it secret.

At the height of the 2008 financial crisis, the Fed loaned as much as $110 billion through the so-called "discount window."

The documents offered details about which banks borrowed money from the lending program from August 2007 through March 2010.

Big U.S. banks such as Wachovia and Morgan Stanley relied on the Fed for short-term loans of $6 billion and $1.25 billion, respectively, in the fall of 2008, the documents showed. So did some of the largest foreign banks -- Barclay's borrowed $1 billion.

But smaller institutions also drew from the discount window at the critical time for the financial sector. The Savings Bank of Maine and the Bank of Yazoo City in Mississippi both borrowed millions, the documents showed.

Few loans are now being made because banks are in stronger financial shape and economic conditions have improved.

Bloomberg had sued the Fed seeking details about the Fed's discount window lending as well as other Fed loans made during the crisis. A similar lawsuit was later filed by News Corp.'s Fox News Network Llc. Other news organizations including The Associated Press had filed briefs with the appellant court in their support.

The Fed had said that some of the information being sought was made public in December. At that time, the Fed 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. The disclosures were required under the financial overhaul law enacted last year.

The new law says the Fed beginning in late 2012 must provide information on any commercial banks that draw emergency loans from its discount window, although those details will stay secret for about two years after the borrowing takes place.

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