Having a government gig can be hard work. It also can be lucrative and easy work for some. For Security Exchange Commission (SEC) employees, the gig just got a bit easier since they no longer have to deal with the public or news organizations filing freedom of information requests.
The SEC cited the new law Tuesday in a FOIA action brought by FOX Business Network. Steven Mintz, founding partner of law firm Mintz & Gold LLC in New York, lamented what he described as “the backroom deal that was cut between Congress and the SEC to keep the SEC’s failures secret. The only losers here are the American public.”
If the SEC’s interpretation stands, Mintz, who represents FOX Business Network, predicted “the next time there is a Bernie Madoff failure the American public will not be able to obtain the SEC documents that describe the failure,” referring to the shamed broker whose Ponzi scheme cost investors billions.
The SEC didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
Let’s get this straight off the bat. This is not a Fox News attack. Fox Business is specifically referencing what the SEC is referencing as current law, enacted when President Obama signed the stupid financial “reform” legislation bill last week.
Will other news outlets look into the 2,000+ pages of legislation to find out if the SEC can now ignore FOI requests? My guess is they will, as soon as they file one of their own someday.
Morrissey points out some recent SEC FIO requests.
- March 2009 – Fox used FOIA to discover that the SEC had investigated Madoff and R. Allen Stanford, but failed to follow through on prosecution in time to save investors.
- 2009 – Fox again used FOIA to get records showing that the Fed knew AIG execs would get their bonuses under the bailout legislation proposed by Congress.
- SEC whistleblower Gary Aguirre forced the SEC to release documents through FOIA requests that showed he was correct in accusing the agency of interfering in an investigation of Pequot Asset Management — and allowed him to get a settlement for wrongful termination.
None of these would have happened without FOIA. Government has only one purpose in issuing FOIA exemptions — opacity. Some functions in government require secrecy, but those should be limited to acute national security operations and other such public-safety tasks (such as raw FBI files, for instance).