WASHINGTON — The Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.’s long-running lawsuit against Charles E. Hurwitz took another step forward with a federal judge’s ruling that previously sealed letters related to the case should be made available to the defendant.

The case, which grew out of the bankruptcy of United Savings Association of Texas in 1988, was filed six years ago. The FDIC says it wants to recover $821 million of the $1.6 billion it cost taxpayers to bail out the thrift.

The ruling to unseal the letters was made on March 30.

Representatives of Maxxam, a company owned by Mr. Hurwitz, have claimed that the FDIC is using the lawsuit to pressure their employer to surrender approximately 63,000 acres of old-growth forest in northern California in exchange for forgiveness of the debt. The FDIC has denied this, and says that Mr. Hurwitz first broached the subject of a debt-for-forest swap.

Josh Reiss, a spokesman for Maxxam, said the letters will help the company prove that the FDIC went forward with a lawsuit despite its own attorneys’ claim that it is without merit.

“There is nothing new in the letters Maxxam is referring to,” an FDIC spokesman said. “All the information in them has already been made public, whether in the briefs we have filed or in hearings. The information in the letters is old news.”

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