At a brief hearing Friday, the judge presiding over the FTX bankruptcy granted a motion by media outlets to intervene for the purpose of objecting to the sealing of creditor information.
A separate objection by the U.S. trustee, the government watchdog that oversees Chapter 11 reorganizations, also was on the agenda for Friday’s hearing but was postponed by Judge John Dorsey until Jan. 11, when he likely will also hear arguments from the media.
In a court filing earlier this week, an attorney for Delaware’s acting U.S. trustee noted that “disclosure is a basic premise of bankruptcy law.”
“The debtors simply cannot seek bankruptcy protection and then do business behind a shield of secrecy” Juliet Sarkessian wrote. Sarkessian warned that allowing FTX to shield creditor lists and financial schedules would be a “slippery slope” and create an unfavorable precedent for bankruptcies in which creditors are also customers.
Last month, Dorsey temporarily granted a request by FTX to redact the names and addresses of clients and creditors from court filings, even though such information is typically public. The judge did direct FTX to file an unredacted creditor matrix under seal with the court, but the company has yet to do so.
Lawyers for FTX have argued that its customer list is both a valuable asset and confidential commercial information. They contend that secrecy is needed to protect FTX accounts from potential theft and to ensure that potential competitors do not “poach” FTX customers.
FTX also has sought to withhold the names and addresses of non-customer individual creditors who are citizens of the United Kingdom or European Union nations, citing a consumer protection program known as the General Data Protection Regulation, or GDPR.