April 27, 2018
The following are my comments on the proposed amendments to the Securities and Exchange Commissions Freedom of Information Act ("FOIA") Regulations (File No. S7-09-17):
a) 200.800(a)(2)(ii) proposes alternative means for requests to be submitted for those who do not have access to the internet by allowing the requester to call, email, or appear in person. Regardless of the fact that internet access is required for email, section (b)(1) requires that all requests be submitted in writing. These contradict each other because a written request would not be able to be submitted via telephone (as suggested by the alternate means of contacting the agency). Also requiring all of the submission be in writing could deter the sight-impaired from being able to use said telephone request services. Clarification regarding the actual services provided over the phone might be needed to avoid conflicting allowances and requirements.
b) 200.800(b)(3) states: When a requester fails to provide sufficient information within 30 calendar days after having been asked to reasonably describe the records sought, the Office of FOIA Services shall notify the requester in writing that the request has not been properly made, that no further action will be taken, and that the FOIA request is closed. However, this does not address if the requestor has been in contact with the Office of FOIA Services during that 30-day timeframe. The timeframe only stops when a subjectively reasonable description is received. This could escalate the number of appeals if an extension is not filed during that time-frame. A requester could actively be working with the agency and still have their request closed, escalating it to an appeal and furthering delaying the process. The agency should have discretion to extend the 30-calendar-day if a requester has been in contact, but not provided the modified description/request within the initial 30-days, and not require the formal extension or appeals process.
c) 200.800(g)(6) Charges for other services states that an additional fee would be required for sending records by means other than first class mail. No mention or exclusion of any/all electronic formats is included in this requirement (other than a prior requirement for duplication fees for other forms of media). It also does not address if the other physical delivery services may be less expensive to the requester and/or agency. Further, how it is currently written, it implies that email or fax could be considered as other services. This does not seem to fall in line with the intention of these other services, but other services are not defined in the Definitions section of the regulation.
I am a U.S. Air Force Veteran with extensive experience in policy and procedure as a Personnelist and in my subsequent career in Quality Systems for a major medical device manufacturer. After three years as the Document Control Team Lead for said medical device manufacturer, I moved to Manufacturing Quality to improve and develop robust operating procedures and training. My experience in policy and procedure writing ensured zero ISO findings and guaranteed our initial ISO certification for the manufacturing cite, expanding our market globally. I have since changed careers and am currently a second-year law student at Suffolk University Law School enrolled in Administrative Law.