FOIA and Records Management

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Records Management

The Open Government Directive requires a short summary of your agency's compliance with existing records management requirements and a link to the explanation on your agency's records webpage. In addition, 2016 plans should detail more recent records management requirements, including your agency's plans and actions to manage all email records electronically by the end of 2016 (doing away with print-to paper recordkeeping), and how your agency plans to manage all permanent electronic records electronically by 2019. These requirements serve as the foundation for your agency's records management program.

Email Management

In July 2016, the SEC implemented the Capstone approach to email management so as to ensure compliance with requirements listed in the Presidential Memorandum – Managing Government Records (published November 28, 2011) and the subsequent Managing Government Records Directive (M-12-18) from Office of Management and Budget (OMB) (published August 24, 2012). By adopting this approach, the Agency is able to “…manage both permanent and temporary email records in an accessible electronic format,” as specified in Goal 1.2 of M-12-18, based on the position of the email account owner and/or office.

Designated Capstone Officials were identified in accordance with the General Records Schedule (GRS) Transmittal 23, Item 5. Under this methodology, all Capstone Official email accounts will be permanently retained and will be transferred electronically to the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) 15 years after the employee’s separation from the Commission. By contrast, emails belonging to non-Capstone Officials will be retained for a period three years from the send/receive date, then permanently destroyed.

Regardless of account designation, all SEC personnel are allotted 45 days from the send/receive date to remove personal non-records material prior to archival preservation. During this period, all account owners are required to transfer email records pertaining to project/case files out of the SEC’s email application for electronic storage.

Permanent Electronic Records

In support of M-12-18, the SEC’s Office of Records Management Services (ORMS) augmented the Agency’s Biennial Records Management Program Assessment to include requirements pertaining to the electronic management of all permanent records.

Additionally, the ORMS hosted two training sessions in 2016: “Are You still Using Paper?” and “Where Can I Store These Files?” These sessions covered existing records management policies and provided guidance to SEC personnel on how to:

  • identify SEC records that must be temporarily and/or permanently retained
  • manage and transfer electronic records in an standardized format
  • digitize physical records
  • manage permanent records beyond December 31, 2019

The ORMS also implemented new business processes to improve operational efficiency, support information sharing, and minimize costs associated with records storage.  SEC Instruction 6021.00 – Records Management Information Technology Requirements and SEC Instruction 6021.01 – Records Management Service Component Requirements were issued to require the inclusion of automated processes for managing permanent electronic records in all new and existing solicitations, contracts, and agreements for services involving the creation, handling, maintenance, or disposition of Agency records and information.

Finally, in December 2015, the ORMS began developing an internal Records Resource Center (RRC) that will be accessible through the SEC’s intranet. Upon completion, the RRC will serve as the central point of reference for policies, procedures, and best practices regarding the creation, maintenance, and disposition of permanent electronic records.

Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) Requests.

The Open Government Directive states that agencies should provide a link to a website that includes an assessment of its capacity to process and respond to FOIA requests in a timely manner. Recognizing that all agencies can improve their FOIA performance, 2016 plans should also include agency goals to further integrate a presumption of openness through proposed changes, technological resources, or reforms that your agency determines are needed to strengthen your response processes and improve customer service. If your agency has a significant backlog, your plan should detail how your agency will reduce its backlog by at least 10 percent each year. Finally, your plan should link to your agency's FOIA webpage. At a minimum, your agency's FOIA webpage should include: (1) a description of your staffing and organizational structure for FOIA, including your agency's Chief FOIA Officer, as well as specific contact information for your agency FOIA Requester Service Center(s), FOIA Public Liaison(s), and other public points of contact; (2) your agency's process for responding to FOIA requests; (3) links to your agency's FOIA reports in an electronic format including the Annual FOIA Report and Chief FOIA Officer Report; (4) a link to your agency's FOIA regulation; and (5) an explanation for how requesters can check on the status of a request.

The Office of FOIA Services (OFS) receives between 14,000 and 16,000 requests each year, and processes most requests within the 20-business-day statutory timeframe. Fewer than 1 percent of requests need to be processed through the office’s complex queue known as “FIFO” (First-in, First-out). Examples of FIFO requests are those seeking all investigative records on XYZ Company over an expanded period of time, or those requesting all email messages between John Doe and John Smith using broad search terms over an expanded timeframe.

OFS intends to add a Public Access Link (PAL) to our external FOIA web page, which will allow the public to track the status of Freedom of Information Act (FOIA)- and Privacy Act (PA)-based requests over the Internet. This will improve our customer service and response time by eliminating the need to contact the office by phone or email to obtain the status of requests.  OFS has a 1–2 percent backlog that is carried over to the next year.

OFS is comprised of a FOIA officer who is supported by three research branches—each of which includes a branch chief, a lead research specialist, and five research specialists—as well as a technical support branch that is staffed with a branch chief, team lead, two research specialists, and three program specialists.

Contact information for SEC FOIA program:

SEC process for responding to FOIA requests:  To obtain the status of a request, OFS can be reached by telephone at (202) 551-7900, via email at, or through an FOIA liaison. The requester should provide the FOIA case number, e.g., 16-00234-FOIA, to help locate the request; however, if that information is not available, OFS may be able to locate the request by using the requester’s name or subject of the request.

SEC FOIA homepage:

SEC Annual FOIA reports and Chief FOIA Officer reports:

SEC FOIA regulations: