The Federal Reserve Board has failed to retrieve two confidential documents that it accidentally disclosed to a Bronx-based community group trying to undo Chemical Banking Corp.'s acquisition of Chase Manhattan Corp.

A federal appeals court in New York on May 23 rejected an emergency request by the Fed to recover the documents that it inadvertently disclosed to Inner City Press-Community on the Move during discovery, the fact- gathering process that precedes a trial.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit denied the Fed's request to recover all copies of a confidential list of planned Chase and Chemical branch consolidations. The court said the list, which has appeared in several newspapers, has "irretrievably entered the public domain, and no protective order can now restore it to secrecy."

The unanimous three-judge panel also rejected the Fed's request to force Inner City Press to return a document containing examination data. The court said the Fed failed to specify the harm that would result from release of the information.

Fed spokesman Joseph Coyne declined to comment. Inner City Press executive director Matthew Lee hailed the ruling. "This was the right decision," he said.

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