The law firm Covington & Burling LLP has filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit against the CFPB in Washington, D.C. federal district court seeking information relating to the CFPB’s report on, “Consumer Voices on Credit Reports and Scores.” Covington argues that the information requested, “is necessary for the public to verify the quality of the study’s methodology.” The Covington litigation is likely being filed on behalf of a client that prefers not to invoke the ire of the CFPB by requesting the information directly. The litigation could lay the ground work for transparency into the CFPB’s research processes, not only when releasing reports, but also when compiling data and findings that could inform future CFPB actions, such as rulemaking.
The CFPB previously responded to Covington’s initial FOIA request by releasing only 187 full pages and 111 redacted pages of responsive records, but the CFPB withheld 1,196 pages. The CFPB claimed that the pages are shielded from disclosure by:
- FOIA Exemption 4 relating to “commercial or financial information obtained from a person that is privileged or confidential;”
- FOIA Exemption 5 relating to “deliberative or decision-making processes within the agency;” and
- FOIA Exemption 6 relating to “personal privacy.”
In the lawsuit, Covington challenges the CFPB’s FOIA response, claiming that the CFPB has failed to identify the documents withheld, establish any factual basis for their withholding, or establish that the documents contained no reasonably segregable factual information. Covington’s appeal is focused on the following documents:
- (1) records of the process of, and parameters for, selecting focus group participants and focus group locations;
- (2) focus group participants’ responses; and
- (3) demographic data of focus group participants.