FDIC Responds to PJM's Freedom of Information Act Request

Late last month, PJM reported that Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) -- ranking member of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform -- had begun an investigation into allegations the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) gave preferential treatment to banks with political connections.

Allegations which, at the time, FDIC flatly denied.

In response to those denials, along with the fact that the Washington Post reporter who broke the original story was sticking to his guns, PJM sent a Freedom of Information Act Request to FDIC.

That request asked for:

[Documents] pertaining to all internal reports, memos, listings and communications concerning the identification of banks that might cause press or public relations problems.

This includes all documents in which FDIC personnel identified conflicts of interests between elected or appointed federal officials with bank ownership or management.

FDIC has since replied to PJM in record time.

In the two-page response, the FDIC does not claim they do not maintain such a list or engage in the practice of flagging banks which have important contacts. Instead, they essentially say they do not have to provide such information to PJM because the request was simply too broad:

The FOIA requires that each request reasonably describe the information sought and that it comply with an agency's published rules, including those pertaining to fees. ... A request for identifiable records shall reasonably describe the records in a way that enables the FDIC's staff to identify and produce the records with reasonable effort without unduly burdening or significantly interfering with any of the FDIC's operations.

In other words: “If we can find a legitimate excuse to say this would ‘unduly burden’ employees or ‘interfere with operations,’ we can tell you no.”