WASHINGTON —After suing the Securities & Exchange Commission (SEC) for documents related to potential conflicts of interest in its cryptocurrency-related enforcement decisions, Empower Oversight has obtained the first documents from the SEC as a result of this litigation under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). The documents consist of emails between two now-former senior SEC officials and any email address at the law firm that employed them after they left the SEC, Simpson Thacher & Bartlett. They include 1,053 pages of emails involving William Hinman, the former Director of the SEC’s Division of Corporation Finance, and 46 pages of emails involving Marc Berger, the former Acting Director of the SEC’s Division of Enforcement. However, due to formatting issues, many of those pages are almost entirely blank and contain duplicate information. On February 18, at the SEC’s request, Empower Oversight provided a detailed list of people associated with the entities named in the FOIA request so that SEC can identify additional responsive records rather than limiting its searches to just certain email address domains.
“This initial document production by the SEC is a step in the right direction, but it must keep its commitment to conduct additional searches in order to fulfill its legal obligation to transparency. Empower Oversight will not relent in its commitment to enforcing accountability through the public’s right to know,” said Empower Oversight Founder and President Jason Foster.
The judge hearing Empower Oversight’s lawsuit recently granted an extension requested by the SEC to file an answer to Empower Oversight’s legal complaint. The SEC formally responded to the complaint on February 18, 2022, denying that it failed to meet its statutory obligations under FOIA.
Empower Oversight initially filed its FOIA request with the SEC on August 12, 2021.
In the months since then, Empower Oversight: (1) filed a lawsuit due to the lack of response from the SEC, (2) submitted an administrative appeal to the SEC’s initial claims that there were no responsive records, and (3) sent a letter to the SEC and a new FOIA request for records related to how the SEC’s FOIA personnel were conducting searches for responsive records.
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