The “Light of Truth FOIA Campaign”
- August 6, 2014
The discovery phase in major litigation is an interesting time when both sides eagerly anticipate what their opponent could produce while also fretting over what could be uncovered in their own documents. Given that tens of thousands of pages are usually turned over, it can be an anxious time. That’s why the little bit gleaned from a recent document makes a lot of people wonder what will come out when Treasury is legally required to hand over its documents that relate to plans for Fannie and Freddie around the time of the Treasury’s decision to enact the Third Amendment sweep.
But some small investors are taking it upon themselves to provide another way in which Treasury might be legally compelled to hand over documents outside of the litigation.
Calling it a “Light of Truth FOIA Campaign,” investors are embarking on a coordinated campaign to use the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) to gather what could be more damning evidence that the Administration new Fannie and Freddie was vastly improving when they enacted the Third Amendment sweep and raided shareholders’ investments.
Those who have submitted FOIA’s to government agencies previously well understand how frustrating this process can be and have dealt with the creativity of agency lawyers in trying to prevent a FOIA from moving forward. The federal government as a whole either denied or censored more FOIA requests than it confirmed in 2013, according to an Associated Press analysis. There are nine exemptions (reasons why an agency may deny or censor) for FOIA requests.
They are, briefly:
- Classified documents;
- Personnel matters;
- Information is restricted by law, such as census data;
- Information would constitute the release of confidential business information, such as trade secrets;
- To safeguard deliberations of the policy-making process;
- Release would violate personal privacy of an individual, such as medical information;
- Release could interfere in law enforcement proceedings;
- Information pertains to the examination, operations and condition reports of financial institutions;
- Geological data, information and maps about wells.
A FOIA can be a tough hurdle, and clearly Treasury does not want information that could benefit investors to be produced either through an information request or through the discovery process. In a recent blog, Tim Howard, a former Fannie Mae CFO, clearly makes this point, which was cross-posted at Value Walk:
“It will be interesting to see how much information they disclose. We can then turn over denials for attorneys to review. This will be an excellent way to ensure that we keep the flow of critical data to the public. I know for a fact our message is having an effect across all spheres of influence and power. This will only help further our cause.”
We’re excited to watch this FOIA campaign unfold – this, to us, is democracy at work: the people demanding that their government be accountable to them.