The Securities and Exchange Commission asked a Virginia federal judge on Wednesday to give it an early win in its records dispute with a watchdog group over documents that might reveal former high-ranking SEC officials’ conflicts of interests associated with their oversight of cryptocurrency.
The SEC said in a court filing that it has already given the group, Empower Oversight Whistleblowers & Research, all the documents it had originally asked for and which the commission could lawfully provide.
The SEC argues that any withholding or redaction of documents was legally justified, and that its search process need not be perfect, just reasonably designed to find all relevant records.
The SEC said in its memorandum supporting its motion for summary judgment that its searches leaned on the language the plaintiff used, “often parroting the exact time frame, domain names, and email inboxes that Plaintiff explicitly referenced in its FOIA request.”
“The SEC is not obligated to keep catering to Plaintiff’s newfound, after-the-fact asks — not encompassed in Plaintiff’s original FOIA request — as if the SEC did not have other requests and limited resources,” the agency said.
Empower’s records requests focused on three former SEC officials – chairman Jay Clayton, corporate finance head William Hinman and acting enforcement leader Marc Berger – and decisions they made with respect to certain cryptocurrencies.
“The SEC produced some records at the last minute ahead of its motion for summary judgement,” Empower president and founder Jason Foster said in a statement. “Given the SEC’s pattern of bad faith negotiations on search terms and history of incomplete productions, we are skeptical that this production is fully responsive.”
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