WASHINGTON — In a new joint status report filed in the Eastern District of Virginia, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) argued that Empower Oversight’s Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit should be delayed while the SEC waits for approval from Simpson Thacher to release documents at issue in the litigation.
In its portion of the joint status report, the SEC claims that, “it cannot yet propose a briefing schedule because a small subset of responsive records is subject to the SEC’s confidential treatment procedure[.] … The only remaining records to be released contain information that the law firm Simpson Thacher & Bartlett (“STB”) sent to the SEC and that may be subject to confidential treatment pursuant to 17 C.F.R. § 200.83.”
“The SEC is trying to duck accountability and delay judicial review of its failure to comply with FOIA by hiding behind the confidentiality interests of the law firm with whom its own ethics officials said its employee had a conflict,“ said Jason Foster, Founder and President of Empower Oversight.
“Its claim that the law firm’s potentially confidential records are the ‘only remaining records to be released’ also shows a disturbing lack of good faith. At the SEC’s request, Empower Oversight provided the names of people related to entities in its FOIA request on February 18 to aid in the SEC’s search. Yet, contrary to its previous commitment, the SEC appears to have made no efforts to search for and produce records relating to those individuals,” said Foster.
In its portion of the joint status report, Empower Oversight argues that the Eastern District of Virginia’s usual accelerated procedures should apply in this case, as in any other, “Given the speed of the docket in this Court, Empower Oversight suggests that the Court require the SEC provide a supporting declaration sufficiently in advance of the date it files any motion for summary judgment. That should allow the parties to determine whether the SEC-provided declaration is thorough enough or whether there are outstanding factual issues that need to be resolved.”
The joint statement is the latest document made public in Empower Oversight’s ongoing lawsuit against the SEC. Two weeks ago, on April 8, Empower Oversight received just under 200 pages of emails from the SEC that showed SEC ethics officials warning former SEC official William Hinman that he had a direct financial interest in Simpson Thacher, and thus, “should not be having any meetings with your old firm.”
If you have first-hand information you’d like to disclose to assist Empower Oversight with these inquiries, please contact us confidentially here.