Court strikes down designation of MetLife as “too big to fail”; opinion was inexplicably sealed

As you may have heard, on March 30, a D.C. district court threw out a designation by the federal Financial Stability Oversight Council (FSOC) that MetLife needs to comply with special government safeguards under Dodd-Frank for entities whose "material financial distress" could "pose a threat to the financial stability of the United States." (Here's coverage from the Washington Post.) The rationale for the court's decision was two-fold: the FSOC changed its interpretation of Dodd-Frank midstream, and the FSOC refused to consider the costs of the designation.

When the opinion was handed down, it was under seal. A week later, it was released in full. (You can read it here; it still says "Sealed Opinion" at the top.) As you'll see if you read it, it's hard to tell what was so secret that it had to be sealed in the first place. It's good that the decision on such an important issue is out, but the reflexive sealing that preceded the release is part of the troubling trend of secrecy in judicial opinions (see, for instance, here and here). As the Fourth Circuit has written, "Without access to judicial opinions, public oversight of the courts, including the processes and the outcomes they produce, would be impossible."

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