Freedom of Information And Open Government Thomas M. Susman Santiago, Chile – November 6, 2007 1 Tokyo, Japan
Freedom of Information Affects Public, Government, and Businesses <ul><li>Benefits of open government </li></ul><ul><ul><l...
Benefits to Public, Including Businesses <ul><li>More effective participation in policy formulation by government </li></u...
Benefits to Government <ul><li>Higher quality of decision-making </li></ul><ul><li>Improved compliance with laws and regul...
History of U.S. FOIA <ul><li>Before the Freedom of Information Act (“FOIA”):  principles of transparency respected, but no...
Government Disclosure of Business Information Under FOIA <ul><li>FOIA legislative history reflects little consideration gi...
Meaning of FOIA Exemption for Confidential Business Information <ul><li>Scope and meaning of exemption unclear on its face...
Meaning of FOIA Exemption for Confidential Business Information <ul><li>Commercial information is protected from disclosur...
Comparison to Proposed Legislation in Chile and Elsewhere <ul><li>Every access-to-information law or regulation respects n...
Comparison to Proposed Legislation in Chile and Elsewhere <ul><li>Chile’s draft access to government-held information bill...
Submitter Must be Given Notice Before Disclosure <ul><li>Executive Order 12600, issued in 1987, requires notice to submitt...
No Balancing or Public Interest Override for Business Information <ul><li>If information qualifies as trade secret or conf...
“ Reverse-FOIA” Action <ul><li>Suit may be brought by submitter against agency to prevent disclosure under FOIA </li></ul>...
When Is FOIA Used by Businesses? <ul><li>Public policy advocacy or oversight  </li></ul><ul><li>Firms under investigation ...
Business-Use Examples:  Discovery of Agency “Secret Law” <ul><li>Internal Revenue Service memoranda reflecting agency’s po...
Business-Use Examples:  Responding to Regulation or Enforcement Activities <ul><li>Medical and pharmacological reviews pre...
Business-Use Examples:  Litigation with Agency or with Third-Party <ul><li>Use in whistleblower case to obtain company Foo...
Business-Use Examples:  Obtaining Information about Competitors <ul><li>Reports filed by competing contractors disclosing ...
Attitude of Businesses Has Changed <ul><li>For much of first two decades under FOIA, businesses were hostile toward the la...
Businesses Now See Value in FOIA <ul><li>Businesses and their representatives are now the # 1 users of FOIA </li></ul><ul>...
Also: Government-Required Disclosure by Companies and Individuals <ul><li>Many U.S. laws require persons and companies to ...
<ul><li>QUESTIONS? </li></ul><ul><li>Thomas M. Susman </li></ul><ul><li>Ropes & Gray LLP </li></ul><ul><li>700 Twelfth Str...
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  • Thomas M. Susman,Ppt

    1. 1. Freedom of Information And Open Government Thomas M. Susman Santiago, Chile – November 6, 2007 1 Tokyo, Japan
    2. 2. Freedom of Information Affects Public, Government, and Businesses <ul><li>Benefits of open government </li></ul><ul><ul><li>To the public, including businesses </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>To the government </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Impact on business— </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Public disclosure of information submitted to government by businesses </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Disclosure of agency information to businesses </li></ul></ul>
    3. 3. Benefits to Public, Including Businesses <ul><li>More effective participation in policy formulation by government </li></ul><ul><li>Improved ability to comply with laws </li></ul><ul><li>Commercial, scientific, and environmental benefits </li></ul><ul><li>More competitive procurement and contracting </li></ul><ul><li>More efficient resource allocation </li></ul>
    4. 4. Benefits to Government <ul><li>Higher quality of decision-making </li></ul><ul><li>Improved compliance with laws and regulations </li></ul><ul><li>Greater public confidence in government </li></ul><ul><li>Greater accountability of officials and thus less potential for corruption </li></ul>
    5. 5. History of U.S. FOIA <ul><li>Before the Freedom of Information Act (“FOIA”): principles of transparency respected, but no rights </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Constitutional history; democratic ideals </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Information disclosed that government wanted to release </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Requester must show particular interest </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Brief history in U.S. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>FOIA enacted in 1966, 5 U.S.C. § 552 </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Subsequent amendments </li></ul></ul>
    6. 6. Government Disclosure of Business Information Under FOIA <ul><li>FOIA legislative history reflects little consideration given by Congress to disclosure of business information </li></ul><ul><li>Text of statute: FOIA disclosure mandate does not apply to— </li></ul><ul><li>trade secrets and commercial or financial information obtained from a person and privileged or confidential </li></ul>
    7. 7. Meaning of FOIA Exemption for Confidential Business Information <ul><li>Scope and meaning of exemption unclear on its face </li></ul><ul><li>Courts have interpreted and given substance through many litigated cases </li></ul>
    8. 8. Meaning of FOIA Exemption for Confidential Business Information <ul><li>Commercial information is protected from disclosure if it is either — </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Submitted to the government under compulsion, when release would cause substantial competitive harm or impair the government’s ability to obtain information; or </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Submitted to the government voluntarily when the information would not customarily be released by the submitter to the public. </li></ul></ul>
    9. 9. Comparison to Proposed Legislation in Chile and Elsewhere <ul><li>Every access-to-information law or regulation respects need for confidentiality of some business information </li></ul><ul><li>Most often identifies “trade secrets” (although the term may have multiple meanings) </li></ul>
    10. 10. Comparison to Proposed Legislation in Chile and Elsewhere <ul><li>Chile’s draft access to government-held information bill would not apply where— </li></ul><ul><li>(b) [disclosure] may harm commercial or other economic rights, whether public or private . . . . </li></ul><ul><li>(d) [the information] has been obtained from a third party as confidential information . . . . </li></ul>
    11. 11. Submitter Must be Given Notice Before Disclosure <ul><li>Executive Order 12600, issued in 1987, requires notice to submitter and opportunity to comment to agency when request made for information designated by submitter as “confidential” </li></ul><ul><li>Agency has ultimate authority over decision to disclose </li></ul>
    12. 12. No Balancing or Public Interest Override for Business Information <ul><li>If information qualifies as trade secret or confidential commercial information, it must be withheld (through interaction of Trade Secret Act’s confidentiality requirement) </li></ul><ul><li>FOIA has no balancing of benefits to public from disclosure; no matter how great, benefits do not override nondisclosure requirement </li></ul><ul><li>Chile’s proposed law allows withholding only if the “risk of danger outweighs the public interest promoting…disclosure” </li></ul>
    13. 13. “ Reverse-FOIA” Action <ul><li>Suit may be brought by submitter against agency to prevent disclosure under FOIA </li></ul><ul><li>Suit under Administrative Procedure Act, not FOIA (therefore burden of proof is on the submitter to justify nondisclosure) </li></ul><ul><li>Court may enjoin agency from disclosing trade secret or confidential commercial information </li></ul>
    14. 14. When Is FOIA Used by Businesses? <ul><li>Public policy advocacy or oversight </li></ul><ul><li>Firms under investigation </li></ul><ul><li>In litigation with an agency (or private litigation) </li></ul><ul><li>For commercial (competitive) advantage </li></ul><ul><li>Contracting with the government </li></ul><ul><li>Rulemakings affecting business </li></ul><ul><li>Government benefits, plans, activities </li></ul>
    15. 15. Business-Use Examples: Discovery of Agency “Secret Law” <ul><li>Internal Revenue Service memoranda reflecting agency’s positions to guide personnel </li></ul><ul><li>National Labor Relations Board general counsel memoranda reflecting decisions not to file complaints </li></ul><ul><li>Monetary policy directives by Federal Reserve Board </li></ul><ul><li>Antitrust Division and other government guidance manuals for staff </li></ul>
    16. 16. Business-Use Examples: Responding to Regulation or Enforcement Activities <ul><li>Medical and pharmacological reviews prepared in the course of agency review of new drug applications </li></ul><ul><li>Scientific studies on potential dangers of gasoline additive </li></ul><ul><li>Memoranda reflecting reasons why Federal Trade Commission (FTC) supported staff request for subpoena </li></ul><ul><li>Files of closed customs and antitrust investigations </li></ul>
    17. 17. Business-Use Examples: Litigation with Agency or with Third-Party <ul><li>Use in whistleblower case to obtain company Food & Drug Administration (FDA) filings </li></ul><ul><li>Use in case by Indian tribes against energy companies alleging fraud </li></ul><ul><li>Use by government contractor to obtain investigative report of accident </li></ul>
    18. 18. Business-Use Examples: Obtaining Information about Competitors <ul><li>Reports filed by competing contractors disclosing numbers of employees and types of positions </li></ul><ul><li>Prices and terms contained in government contracts </li></ul><ul><li>Internal efficiency studies </li></ul><ul><li>Securities & Exchange Commission (SEC) and FTC investigative files </li></ul><ul><li>FDA, Agriculture Department, and Product Safety Commission records on products </li></ul>
    19. 19. Attitude of Businesses Has Changed <ul><li>For much of first two decades under FOIA, businesses were hostile toward the law </li></ul><ul><ul><li>No required notice or consultation (until 1987) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Example of mistaken release by Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) of Monsanto’s valuable pesticide formula (1982) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>No distinction between information voluntarily submitted and required to be submitted (until 1992) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Right to challenge disclosure in court not recognized (until 1979) </li></ul></ul>
    20. 20. Businesses Now See Value in FOIA <ul><li>Businesses and their representatives are now the # 1 users of FOIA </li></ul><ul><li>Agencies afford reasonably predictable protection for trade secrets and confidential information </li></ul><ul><li>Agencies listen to business arguments for nondisclosure </li></ul><ul><li>Businesses in 2007 supported congressional amendments to strengthen disclosure under FOIA </li></ul>
    21. 21. Also: Government-Required Disclosure by Companies and Individuals <ul><li>Many U.S. laws require persons and companies to disclose information to the public </li></ul><ul><li>Information disclosure used to combat business corruption or as regulatory tool; examples include— </li></ul><ul><ul><li>SEC (corporate information), FDA (food and drug research), EPA (pollutants) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Ethics in Government Act (financial disclosure) </li></ul></ul>
    22. 22. <ul><li>QUESTIONS? </li></ul><ul><li>Thomas M. Susman </li></ul><ul><li>Ropes & Gray LLP </li></ul><ul><li>700 Twelfth Street, NW </li></ul><ul><li>Suite 900 </li></ul><ul><li>Washington, DC 20005 </li></ul><ul><li>011-202-508-4620 </li></ul><ul><li>[email_address] </li></ul><ul><li>7275355_3 </li></ul>

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