FOIA Request

Josh Keefe filed this request with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau of the United States of America.
Tracking # CFPB-2018-136-F
Due Feb. 1, 2018
Est. Completion None
Status
Awaiting Response

Communications

From: Josh Keefe

To Whom It May Concern:

This is a request under the Freedom of Information Act. I hereby request the following records:

I'm am requesting all emails from CFPB acting director Mick Mulvaney from November 23, 2017 to December 8th, 2017 under the Freedom of Information Act.

The requested documents will be made available to the general public, and this request is not being made for commercial purposes.

In the event that there are fees, I would be grateful if you would inform me of the total charges in advance of fulfilling my request. I would prefer the request filled electronically, by e-mail attachment if available or CD-ROM if not.

Thank you in advance for your anticipated cooperation in this matter. I look forward to receiving your response to this request within 20 business days, as the statute requires.

Sincerely,

Josh Keefe

From: Consumer Financial Protection Bureau

Dear Mr. Keefe,
Please see the attached acknowledgement letter that references your FOIA request dated December 8, 2017 that was submitted to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB).
If you have any questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to contact the CFPB FOIA Service Center at 1-855-444-FOIA (3642) or
CFPB_FOIA@cfpb.gov. (mailto:CFPB_FOIA@cfpb.gov)
Thank you.
Holly Walter

  • Consumer Financial Protection Bureau FOIA Request (CFPB-2018-136-F)

From: Consumer Financial Protection Bureau

Dear Mr. Keefe,
Attached to this email is our fee estimate letter in response to your FOIA request dated December 8, 2017 to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). If you have any questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to contact the CFPB FOIA Team at 1-855-444-FOIA (3642) or CFPB_FOIA@cfpb.gov.
Thank you.
Ryan McDonald

  • Consumer Financial Protection Bureau FOIA Response (CFPB-2018-136-F)

From: Josh Keefe

I am requesting a waiver of all fees under 5 U.S.C. Section 552(a)(4)(A)(iii). The information I seek is in the public interest because it will contribute significantly to public understanding of the operations or activities of the government and is not primarily in my commercial interest. This request is not a commercial request -- it is being made by IBT/Newsweek, an award-winning journalism organization.

I believe I meet the criteria for a fee waiver recognized by the executive branch - and by the federal courts, See Project on Military Procurement v. Department of the Navy, 710 F. Supp. 362 363, 365 (D.C.D. 1989).

My request concerns the operations or activities of government because the records relate to the enforcement of consumer protection laws at a time when there is significant public debate about financial regulations. The records that are responsive to this request will spotlight the way the government shapes consumer financial protection regulations.

Also, the information sought has informative value, or potential for contribution to public understanding. Please note the decision in Elizabeth Eudey v. Central Intelligence Agency, 478 F. Supp. 1175 1176 (D.C.D. 1979) (even a single document has the potential for contributing to public understanding). As the senior editor for investigations at Newsweek/IBT, I plan to disseminate this information to the public at large through publication in Newsweek and at International Business Times. Those award-winning publications get millions of visitors per month.

In addition, the release of this information will have a significant impact on public understanding because it will illustrate how financial enforcement decisions are influenced and made by public officials. The policy matters this request covers millions of people in their daily lives, and these documents will show how those matters are perceived by public officials and influenced by outside interests.

In your deliberations, please take note of the following cases: Campbell v. U.S. Department of Justice, 334 U.S. App. D.C. (1998)(administrative and seemingly repetitious information is not exempt from fee-waiver consideration); Project on Military Procurement (agencies cannot reject a fee waiver based on the assumption that the information sought is covered by a FOIA exemption; and Landmark Legal Foundation v. Internal Revenue Service, 1998 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 21722 (D.C.D. 1998)(the fact that the information will soon be turned over to a public body does not exempt the material from fee-waiver consideration).

If it is your position that some records are exempt from disclosure but others are not, I request that you provide the documents that are not exempt. For the exempted documents, I request that you provide an index of those exempted documents as required under Vaughn v. Rosen, 484 F.2d 820 (D.C. Cir. 1973), cert. denied, 415 U.S. 977 (1972). As you are aware, a Vaughn index must describe each document claimed as exempt with sufficient specificity “to permit a reasoned judgment as to whether the material is actually exempt under FOIA.” Founding Church of Scientology v. Bell, 603 F.2d 945, 949 (D.C. Cir. 1979). Moreover, the Vaughn index must “describe each document or portion thereof withheld, and for each withholding it must discuss the consequences of supplying the sought-after information.” King v. U.S. Dep’t of Justice, 830 F.2d 210, 223-24 (D.C. Cir. 1987) (emphasis added). Further, “the withholding agency must supply ‘a relatively detailed justification, specifically identifying the reasons why a particular exemption is relevant and correlating those claims with the particular part of a withheld document to which they apply.’” Id.at 224 (citing Mead Data Central v. U.S. Dep’t of the Air Force, 566 F.2d 242, 251 (D.C. Cir. 1977)).

From: Consumer Financial Protection Bureau

Dear Mr. Keefe,
Please see the attached fee waiver denial letter that references your FOIA request dated December 8, 2017 that was submitted to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB).
If you have any questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to contact the CFPB FOIA Service Center at 1-855-444-FOIA (3642) or
CFPB_FOIA@cfpb.gov. (mailto:CFPB_FOIA@cfpb.gov)
Thank you.
Ryan McDonald

  • Consumer Financial Protection Bureau FOIA Request (CFPB-2018-136-F)

From: Josh Keefe

Dear CFPB chief FOIA officer,

I, Josh Keefe, am writing to appeal the decision to deny my fee waiver request with regards to FOIA request #CFPB-2018-136-F initially filed on December 8, 2017.

According to the Dec. 28, 2017 letter that denied my fee waiver request, my initial request failed to make a “convincing argument” that I am entitled to a fee waiver because I did not address the following factors in determining whether “furnishing the [requested] information is likely to contribute significantly to public understanding of the operations or activities of the government”:

(2) Whether disclosable portions of the requested records will be meaningfully
informative about government operations or activities in order to be likely to contribute
to an increased understanding of those operations or activities; noting that disclosure of
information already in the public domain, in either a duplicative or substantially similar
form, is not as likely to contribute;
(3) Whether the disclosure would contribute to the understanding of a reasonably broad
audience of persons interested in the subject, as opposed to the individual understanding
of the requester; noting a requester’s expertise in the subject area and ability and intention to effectively convey information to the public shall be considered, and presuming a representative of the news media will satisfy this consideration;

(4) Whether the public’s understanding of the subject in question, as compared to the
level of public understanding existing prior to the disclosure, would be enhanced by the
disclosure to a significant extent.
Let me respond to each of these factors individually.
#2. The requested records will indeed be meaningfully informative about government operations and activities. The purpose of the request is to shed light on the work of the CFPB, an agency created to protect consumers and help inform them about the financial industry. The operations of the CFPB are intrinsically of interest to the public. But the specific operations covered by my request are of the utmost importance. CFPB acting director Mick Mulvaney has been a longtime critic of the CFPB and rules created by the CFPB to protect consumers against predatory lending. He has said in the past the agency is “trampling on capitalism.” After Mulvaney was tapped by President Trump to lead the CFPB on Nov. 24, 2017, the agency quietly changed the description of its public mission.
In a press release dated Nov. 24, the day Mulvaney was appointed acting head of the CFPB, the bureau described itself using the following text:
“The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is a 21st century agency that helps consumer finance markets work by making rules more effective, by consistently and fairly enforcing those rules, and by empowering consumers to take more control over their economic lives. For more information, visit consumerfinance.gov.”
After Mulvaney took over has the head of the bureau,the bureau started describing itself differently. On Dec. 21, the CFPB issued a press release with the following description of the bureau’s mission:
“The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is a 21st century agency that helps consumer finance markets work by regularly identifying and addressing outdated, unnecessary, or unduly burdensome regulations, by making rules more effective, by consistently enforcing federal consumer financial law, and by empowering consumers to take more control over their economic lives. For more information, visit consumerfinance.gov.”
Under Mulvaney, the agency has shifted its publicly stated mission from making and enforcing rules to identifying ineffective rules. It’s hard to imagine a government activity that would be of more interest to the public than a government agency tasked with defending consumers changing its mission in a way that more closely aligns with business interests, especially when that change is not the result of any legislation or executive action. It was done quietly, with no public announcement other than a change in the agency’s self-description. This change happened immediately after Mulvaney’s appointment. The emails I am seeking will shine light on how that change happened, and just what exactly the bureau considers its mission to be, and if that mission has changed since Mulvaney became the bureau’s leader.
Also, the information I am seeking is not currently in the public domain. So my request fully conforms to the requirements of provision #2 listed above.
#3. This disclosure will absolutely contribute to the understanding of a reasonably broad audience of persons interested in the subject. I am a full-time reporter with the International Business Times, which is the outlet that will publish the requested information. I have been cited by name for my reporting in the New Yorker and the New York Times. I will use this information to fairly and accurately report on changes in the CFPB’s mission, which is of interest to any American who uses a financial product regulated by the CFPB.
#4. The public’s understanding of the subject in question would be enhanced by the disclosure to a significant extent. Given Mr. Mulvaney’s public criticism of the CFPB in the past, as well as the change in the agency’s own mission statement, the public is in the dark about what the agency is doing, who it is working for, and whether it is still the same agency that was created in response to the financial crisis, or whether it has become something else entirely under Mulvaney’s stewardship. The emails I am seeking would either reaffirm the agency’s commitment to its ideals, or show a change in direction and mission. The public has a right to know if either of those things are true.
I believe I have answered all the concerns addressed by your letter rejecting my request for a fee waiver, and as such, your denial should be rescinded upon appeal. If you have any further questions, please do not hesitate to email me at j.keefe@newsweekgroup.com, or call me at 207-356-7660.
Thank you for your time and consideration. I have attached a signed copy of this message to this email as well.
Josh Keefe

From: Consumer Financial Protection Bureau

Dear Mr. Keefe,
Please accept this email as acknowledgement that the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) received your appeal dated January 2, 2018.
If you have any questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to contact the CFPB FOIA Service Center at 1-855-444-FOIA (3642) or
CFPB_FOIA@cfpb.gov. (mailto:CFPB_FOIA@cfpb.gov)
Thank you.

From: Josh Keefe

I just wanted to follow up on this request, as it has been more than two weeks since you received my appeal. Any update would be greatly appreciated. Thank you!

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