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FOIA Reference Guide

How do I make a FOIA request?

A FOIA request for a copy of U.S. Securities & Exchange Commission records can be made by any individual, private organization, or public organization, other than another federal agency.

The request must: (1) be in writing, (2) specifically cite the Freedom of Information Act, (3) reasonably describe the records sought (by name, date, and subject matter), and (4) indicate a willingness to pay fees or ask for a fee waiver.

Be sure to state your name, address, and telephone number on your request. You need not say why you want the records. Please limit a request to one subject. If records are required on more than one subject, please submit a request for each subject. If a request contains multiple subjects, it will be divided into multiple requests.

Privacy Act Requests

Under the Privacy Act of 1974, 5 USC 552a, you may send a written request for your records or their correction to the Office of FOIA Services by using our online form, fax (202-772-9337), or mail Office of FOIA Services (100 F Street NE, Mail Stop 2465, Washington, DC 20549). Include information that will assist the SEC's staff in identifying the records you are seeking. We will grant or deny access to your records within 30 business days from the date the Office of FOIA Services receives your written request. Under unusual circumstances, we will notify you in writing within the 30 day period that, for good cause, a longer time is needed.

Where should I send my request?

Requests can be sent using our online form.  They can also be faxed to 202-772-9337, or sent by mail to: 100 F Street NE, Mail Stop 2465, Washington D.C. 20549.

What are the fees?

FOIA request fees are based on time spent locating, reviewing, and making available for inspection or copying documents.

For the current calendar year, the fees would be assessed as follows:

  • SK-8 or below: $29/hour
  • SK-9 to 13: $61/hour; and
  • SK-14 or above: $89/hour

The Commission can charge FOIA requesters in quarter-hour increments. There will no longer be up to one half hour of staff time devoted to searching for and reviewing Commission records without charge. Copy costs will remain the same.

The Commission charges $0.24 per page for each copy or image produced of 8-1/2 x 11" documents; and the actual cost of production for all other types of media.

Can the fees be waived?

The FOIA permits a waiver of fees if release of the records is in the public interest because it (a) is likely to contribute significantly to public understanding of SEC operations or activities and (b) is not primarily in the requester's commercial interest.

When will I receive a response to my request?

By law, we have 20 business days from the date we receive your request to respond.  Under unusual circumstances, an extension of time may be taken.

Can I expedite the request?

You may request expedited processing if you demonstrate a compelling need for the information. "Compelling need" means: (1) that a failure to obtain requested records on an expedited basis could reasonably be expected to pose an imminent threat to an individual's life or physical safety; or (2) if the requester is primarily engaged in disseminating information, then there must be an urgency to inform the public about actual or alleged federal government activity.  You must show a compelling need by a statement certified by you as true and correct to the best of your knowledge and belief.

FOIA Staff will inform you whether we will expedite your request within 10 days from the date of your request for expedited processing. If your request is denied, you will be provided appeal rights to the SEC's Office of the General Counsel.

What records can I obtain?

The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) maintains public and non-public records.  Public records, such as registration statements and reports filed by regulated companies and individuals, SEC decisions and releases, staff manuals, no-action and interpretive letters, and public comments on proposed rules, are available on the website.  Most public filings since 1995, SEC releases since September 1995, and other public records are also at the SEC web site http://www.sec.gov.

A FOIA request is required to obtain non-public records, such as records compiled in investigations, consumer complaints, and staff comment letters. We will release non-public records, unless the record is protected by one of nine FOIA exemptions. If we can reasonably segregate or delete exempt information from a requested record, we will release to you the rest of the record.  In addition to FOIA exemptions, there are three special protection provisions, referred to as record "exclusions."  The FOIA exclusions are reserved for certain specified circumstances.

Which records are available online?

Frequently requested FOIA documents are available online:

Are there any records that are exempted or excluded from FOIA?

The Freedom of Information Act entitles the following exemptions on documents being requested by the public:

  1. Those documents properly classified as secret in the interest of national defense or foreign policy;
  2. Related solely to internal personnel rules and practices;
  3. Specifically exempted by other statutes;
  4. A trade secret or privileged or confidential commercial or financial information obtained from a person;
  5. A privileged inter-agency or intra-agency memorandum or letter;
  6. A personnel, medical, or similar file the release of which would constitute a clearly unwarranted invasion of personal privacy;
  7. Compiled for law enforcement purposes, the release of which
    1. could reasonably be expected to interfere with law enforcement proceedings,
    2. would deprive a person of a right to a fair trial or an impartial adjudication,
    3. could reasonably be expected to constitute an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy,
    4. could reasonably be expected to disclose the identity of a confidential source,
    5. would disclose techniques, procedures, or guidelines for investigations or prosecutions, or
    6. could reasonably be expected to endanger an individual's life or physical safety;
  8. Contained in or related to examination, operating, or condition reports about financial institutions that the SEC regulates or supervises; or
  9. And those documents containing exempt information about gas or oil wells.

Under three exceptional circumstances, the SEC is authorized to treat records as not subject to the requirements of the FOIA.  When the SEC applies an exclusion, the FOIA requester will receive a response indicating that the Office of FOIA Services was unable to locate or identify any responsive records.

Three Exclusions

(c)(1) Exclusion

Where the subject of a criminal investigation or proceeding is unaware of the existence of records concerning a pending investigation and disclosure of such records would interfere with the investigation.

(c)(2) Exclusion:

Where there are informant records maintained by a criminal law enforcement agency and the individual's status as an informant is not known.

(c)(3) Exclusion:

Where there are classified FBI records pertaining to foreign intelligence, counterintelligence or international terrorism records.

The SEC Office of FOIA Services will:

(1) consult with the U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Information Policy (OIP) prior to using an exclusion to ensure that the exclusion is warranted and that exclusions are consistently applied, and

(2) publicly report each year on the number of times, if any, that an exclusion was used.

Can I appeal the response to my request?

Yes, the appeals time frame is 90 calendar days from the date of the denial.

How do I file an appeal?

Appeals can be filed on our online form at https://www.sec.gov/forms/request_appeal.  They can also be faxed to 202-772-9337, or sent by mail to: 100 F Street NE, Mail Stop 2465, Washington, D.C. 20549.

Where can I find guidance and resources related to FOIA?

You can find more information about the FOIA, including laws and the SEC's FOIA regulations on our FOIA Guidance page.

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