Last week, the CFPB issued its first Annual Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) Report, which was accompanied by the report of its Chief FOIA Officer. The Chief FOIA Officer’s report contains narrative answers to a series of questions and the FOIA report contains statistical information about the FOIA requests received by the CFPB. The statistical information includes the number of FOIA requests received, the disposition of requests, the number of appeals, the disposition of appeals (including reasons for denial), response times for requests and appeals, and employee numbers and costs.
The reports indicate an average response time for all “processed perfected requests” of 8.36 days and virtually no backlog. (A “processed perfected request” is defined in the report as one “which reasonably describes [the records requested] and is made in accordance with published rules stating the time, place, fees (if any) and procedures to be followed” and “for which an agency has taken final action in all respects.”) The Chief FOIA Officer states in his introductory message that he “take[s] pride in emphasizing our quick response time to requests.”
In his message, the Chief FOIA Officer also recites the CFPB’s mantra that “[t]ransparency has been at the core of the CFPB since the very beginning of the agency.” However, despite the CFPB’s seeming commendable response time for FOIA requests, based on our own experience, it is not clear that CFPB’s responses to FOIA requests are fully consistent with its stated commitment to transparency. Rather than fully respond to our FOIA request, the CFPB ignored most of the request and (nearly a year later) only provided a small fraction of the records we should have received (and charged us almost $1,000 for that tiny amount).