Annual Report on the Freedom of Information Act
for Fiscal Year 2006

Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System

The following information is submitted to the U.S. Department of Justice by the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (Board) in accordance with the requirements of the Freedom of Information Act (5 U.S.C. 552(e)) (FOIA), as amended.

I. Basic Information Regarding Report
A. The Board's contact person for questions about this report is Ms. Jeanne M. McLaughlin, Manager, Freedom of Information Office, Mail Stop 132, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System, 20th Street and Constitution Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20551; Tel: 202-452-3684; TDD only: 202-452-3544; FAX: 202-872-7565.
B. Electronic address for this report on the Board's World Wide Web site: http://www.federalreserve.gov/generalinfo/foia/anrpt_2006.htm
C. A paper copy of this report may be obtained by downloading it from the Board's Web Site (see I.B. above) or requesting it from the Board's Freedom of Information Office (Tel: 202-452-3684) (see I.A. above).

II. How to Make a FOIA Request
A. For information on how to make a FOIA request, visit our web site at www.federalreserve.gov/generalinfo/foia/request.cfm. The Federal Reserve does not have individual agency components or offices that receive FOIA requests; all requests may be made to Ms. Jennifer J. Johnson, Secretary of the Board, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System, 20th Street and Constitution Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20551 (Tel: 202-452-3259) or electronically at www.federalreserve.gov/generalinfo/foia/EFOIA/EFOIAForm.cfm.
B. The Board makes every effort to comply with the statutory time period for responding to FOIA requests. Approximately 99 percent of the 324 simple requests processed and approximately 62 percent of the 541 complex requests processed in Fiscal Year 2006 were responded to within the statutory time period.
C. Some FOIA requests are granted in part or not granted because the information requested falls within one of nine FOIA exemptions or certain exclusions. The types of information that the Board most often withheld involved trade secrets and privileged or confidential commercial or financial information (Exemption 4); certain interagency and intra-agency predecisional deliberative communications (Exemption 5); information the disclosure of which would constitute a clearly unwarranted invasion of personal privacy (Exemption 6); and examination, operating and condition reports relating to financial institutions (Exemption 8). All information withheld was reviewed for compliance with the requirement in subsection (b) of FOIA to provide all reasonably segregable nonexempt information.

III. Definition of Terms and Acronyms Used in the Report
A. Agency-specific acronyms or other terms.
1. Board--Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System
2. FOIA--Freedom of Information Act (5 U.S.C. 552)
3. FY--Fiscal year, which covers the period from October 1 to September 30
4. PA--Privacy Act (5 U.S.C. 552a)
B. Basic terms, expressed in common terminology.
1. FOIA/PA request -- Freedom of Information Act/Privacy Act request -- a FOIA request is generally a request for access to records concerning a third party, an organization, or a particular topic of interest. A PA request is a request for records concerning oneself; such requests are also treated as FOIA requests. All requests for access to records, regardless of which law is cited by the requester, are included in this report.
2. Initial request -- a request to the Board for access to records under the FOIA.
3. Appeal -- a request to the Board asking that it review at a higher administrative level, a full denial or partial denial of access to records under the FOIA, or any other FOIA determination such as a matter pertaining to fees.
4. Processed request or appeal -- a request or appeal for which the Board has taken a final action on the request or the appeal in all respects.
5. Multi-track processing -- a system in which simple requests requiring relatively minimal review are placed in one processing track and more voluminous and complex requests are placed in one or more other tracks. Requests in each track are processed on a first-in/first-out basis. A less complicated complex request, however, may be completed faster than an earlier-received more complex request. A requester who has an urgent need for records may request expedited processing (see III.B.6 below).
6. Expedited processing -- the Board will process a FOIA request on an expedited basis when a requester has shown an exceptional need or urgency for the records which warrants prioritization of his or her request over other requests that were made earlier.
7. Simple request -- a FOIA request that the Board, which uses multi-track processing, places in its fastest (non-expedited) track based on the volume and/or simplicity of records requested.
8. Complex request -- a FOIA request that the Board, which uses multi-track processing, places in a slower track based on the volume and/or complexity of records requested.
9. Grant -- a decision by the Board to disclose all records in full in response to a FOIA request.
10. Partial grant -- a decision by the Board to disclose a record in part in response to a FOIA request, deleting information determined to be exempt under one or more of the FOIA's exemptions; or a decision to disclose some records in their entirety, but to withhold others in whole or in part.
11. Denial -- A decision by the Board not to release any part of a record or records in response to a FOIA request because all the information in the requested record or records is determined by the Board to be exempt under one or more of the FOIA's exemptions, or for some procedural reason (such as because no record is located in response to a FOIA request).
12. Time limits -- the time period in the FOIA for a federal agency, including the Board, to respond to a FOIA request (ordinarily 20 working days from proper receipt of a "perfected" FOIA request (see III.B 13 & 17 below)). Note: the Board's response times in Part VII below are, in accordance with U.S. Department of Justice guidance, expressed in calendar days. The overall working day equivalent can be approximately calculated by multiplying the calendar day total by .7 (thus, 10 calendar days equates to approximately 7 working days, although the precise mix of working and non-working days can vary from request to request on the date of receipt and the proximity to a holiday).
13. "Perfected" request -- a FOIA request for records that adequately describes the records sought, which has been received by the Board, and for which there is no remaining question about the payment of applicable fees.
14. Exemption 3 statute -- a separate federal statute prohibiting the disclosure of a certain type of information and authorizing its withholding under the FOIA subsection (b)(3).
15. Median number -- the middle, not average, number. For example, of 3, 7, and 14, the median number is 7.
16. Average number -- the number obtained by dividing the sum of a group of numbers by the quantity of numbers in the group. For example, of 3, 7, and 14, the average number is 8.
17. Working days -- days excepting Saturday, Sunday, and legal public holidays. As noted, the Board's response times in Part VII below are expressed in median calendar days, and the number of "working days" would be somewhat less.

IV. IV. Exemption 3 Statutes Relied on by the Board During the Current Fiscal Year

Fed. R.Cr.P. 6(e), Grand Jury Secrecy. Used to withhold records used in Grand Jury proceedings. Upheld: Senate of P.R. v. Dep't of Justice, 823 F.2d 574 (D.C. Cir. 1987).

V. Initial FOIA/PA Access Requests
A. Numbers of initial requests.
1. Number of requests pending as of end of FY 2005: 30
2. Number of requests received during FY 2006: 844
3. Number of requests processed during FY 2006: 865
4. Number of requests pending as of end of FY 2006: 9 (enter on Line VII.B.1)
B. Disposition of initial requests.
1. Number of total grants: 474
2. Number of partial grants: 144
3. Number of denials: 13
a. Number of times each FOIA exemption used (counting each exemption once per request)
(1) Exemption 1: 1
(2) Exemption 2: 8
(3) Exemption 3: 1
(4) Exemption 4: 105
(5) Exemption 5: 51
(6) Exemption 6: 49
(7) Exemption 7(A): 0
(8) Exemption 7(B): 0
(9) Exemption 7(C): 2
(10) Exemption 7(D): 0
(11) Exemption 7(E): 1
(12) Exemption 7(F): 0
(13) Exemption 8: 49
(14) Exemption 9: 0
4. Other reasons for nondisclosure (total): 234
a. No records: 101
b. Referrals: 12
c. Request withdrawn: 97
d. Fee-related reason: 0
e. Records not reasonably described: 8
f. Not a proper FOIA request for some other reason: 3
g. Not an agency record: 1
h. Duplicate request: 12
i. Other (specify): 0

VI. Appeals of Initial Denials of FOIA/PA Requests
A. Numbers of appeals.
1. Number of appeals received during FY 2006: 12
2. Number of appeals processed during FY 2006: 13
B. Disposition of appeals.
1. Number completely upheld: 11
2. Number partially reversed: 0
3. Number completely reversed: 0
a. Number of times each FOIA exemption used (counting each exemption once per appeal):
(1) Exemption 1: 0
(2) Exemption 2: 3
(3) Exemption 3: 0
(4) Exemption 4: 2
(5) Exemption 5: 5
(6) Exemption 6: 0
(7) Exemption 7(A): 0
(8) Exemption 7(B): 0
(9) Exemption 7(C): 0
(10) Exemption 7(D): 0
(11) Exemption 7(E): 1
(12) Exemption 7(F): 0
(13) Exemption 8: 2
(14) Exemption 9: 0
4. Other reasons for nondisclosure (total): 2
a. No records: 0
b. Referrals: 0
c. Request withdrawn: 0
d. Fee-related reason: 0
e. Records not reasonably described: 0
f. Not a proper FOIA request for some other reason: 1
g. Not an agency record: 1
h. Duplicate request: 0
i. Other (specify): 0

VII. Compliance with Time Limits/Status of Pending Requests
A. Median processing time for requests processed during FY 2006.
1. Simple requests.
a. Number of requests processed: 324
b. Median number of calendar days to process: 2
2. Complex requests.
a. Number of requests processed: 540
b. Median number of calendar days to process: 26
3. Requests accorded expedited processing.
a. Number of requests processed: 1
b. Median number of calendar days to process: 72
B. Status of pending requests.
1. Number of requests pending as of end of FY 2006: 9 (entered from Line V.A.4.)
2. Median number of calendar days that such requests were pending as of that date: 2

VIII. Comparison with Previous Year
 

2005

2006

Change

 

A.

Requests received: 

929

844

9% decrease

 

B.

Requests processed: 

941

865

8% decrease

 

C.

Median days pending end of FY: 

14.5

2

86% decrease

 

D.

The number of pending requests for FY 2006 has been reduced by 70 percent compared with FY 2005. One request for expedited processing was received and accorded expedited processing.

 

E.

The Board accepts FOIA requests electronically and when possible sends responsive documents by e-mail or on computer disk.

IX. Cost/FOIA Staffing
A. Staffing levels.
1. Number of full-time FOIA personnel: 6
2. Number of personnel with part-time or occasional FOIA duties (in total work-years): 5.6
3. Total number of personnel (in work-years): 11.6
B. Total costs (including staff and all resources).
1. FOIA processing (including appeals): $1,009,471.01
2. Litigation-related activities (estimated): $54,186.84
3. Total costs: $1,063,657.85
4. Comparison with previous year(s) (including percentage of change):

2005

2006

Change

A.

FOIA Processing: 

$945,584.33

$1,009,471.01

6.8% increase

B.

Litigation Related: 

$61,521.00

$54,186.84

11.9% decrease

C.

Total Costs: 

$1,007,105.33

$1,063,657.85

5.6% increase

X. Fees
A. Total amount of fees collected by agency for processing requests: $20,957.00
B. Percentage of total costs: 2 percent (approximate)

XI. FOIA Regulations (Including Fee Schedule)

XII. Report on FOIA Executive Order Implementation
A. Description of supplementation/modification of agency improvement plan (if applicable) N/A
B. Report on agency implementation of its plan, including its performance in meeting milestones, with respect to each improvement area

The Board has met all milestones set forth in its Plan to Improve FOIA Operations, as detailed below. All scheduled improvements and milestones were implemented ahead of their scheduled completion time.

Planned Improvements by Time Periods for Completion

Areas Anticipated to be completed by September 2006

1.Enhance Communication with Requesters

Planned Activity:  Provide written acknowledgement of receipt of complex requests. Include a FOIA tracking number and contact information for the FOIA Service Center.

In June 2006, the Board's FOIA Service Center began sending letters acknowledging receipt of FOIA requests. The letters include the FOIA tracking number assigned to the request and contact information for the Board's FOIA Service Center.

2.Increase Administrative Efficiency of the Board's FOIA Program

Planned Activity:  Send reminders of FOIA deadlines to staff via e-mail with follow-up by senior FOIA personnel if necessary.

In June 2006, the FOIA Service Center began distributing FOIA requests and search assignments electronically.  Also, Board personnel likely to possess responsive documents were given specific deadlines to identify and return responsive records to FOIA personnel.  As the due date approached, follow-up e-mail messages were sent and telephone contact was made with division personnel to obtain search responses.  These program enhancements have assisted in speeding processing time.

3.Identifying Recurring Issues and Making Further Enhancements

Planned Activity:  Document the feedback received by the FOIA Service Center and the Public Liaison.

In June 2006, a feedback form was developed for use by the Board's FOIA Service Center staff and the Board's Public Liaison. The completed feedback forms and all other relevant records documenting feedback received are maintained and immediately reviewed by senior Board FOIA staff. To date, nine comments were received and were documented by the Board's FOIA Service Center staff or the Board's Public Liaison. Five of these comments commended the Board's FOIA staff for excellent service in responding to requests.  In two instances, a detailed explanation of the Board's FOIA procedures was provided to the commenter.  In the other two instances, corrective action was taken to resolve the problem the commenter identified.

Areas Anticipated to be completed by December 31, 2006

1.Reduce or Eliminate Existing Backlogs; Minimize Future Backlogs

Planned Activities:
  1. Evaluate the status of each delayed request, identify the reason for delay, and obtain an estimated time for completion. Ascertain if requesters are interested in modifying their request.
  2. Identify any recurring reasons for delays, and develop a strategy for addressing any such issues.

Commencing in June 2006, FOIA staff conducted a comprehensive review of all pending FOIA requests, particularly focusing on overdue requests.  In many instances, the broad scope of the request and occasional need for follow up searches were identified as recurring reasons contributing to delays in responding.  Where appropriate, requesters were asked to consider limiting the scope of their request, which allowed faster processing. Improvements in processing times also resulted from quicker and more detailed assessments of the scope of FOIA requests on receipt. This included an increased use of electronic resources to identify and locate responsive documents and earlier communication with program personnel. As a result, the bulk of the Board's backlog was eliminated.  At the conclusion of Fiscal Year 2006, the Board had nine FOIA requests pending, a 70% reduction from the previous year.  Seven of the nine pending FOIA requests were received in September 2006.

2.Enhance Communication with Requesters

Planned Activity:
  1. Evaluate adding functionality to the Board's FOIA webpage to enable requesters to file status inquiries and provide feedback on the processing of requests.

We have completed our evaluation of the feasibility of adding this functionality to the Board's public website. The Board's public website developer has begun creating a form to add to the Board's FOIA webpage to enable requesters to file status inquiries and provide feedback on the processing of requests.

3.Enhance Program Transparency

Planned Activities:
  1. Supplement the Board's FOIA webpage with:
  2. - guidance on making FOIA requests and suggestions for avoiding delays;
    - a list of the types of information that typically fall within the scope of the various exemptions
  3. Provide additional information in response letters regarding the scope of the various exemptions

Tips for making FOIA requests, suggestions for avoiding delays, and a list of the types of information that typically fall within the scope of the various exemptions were posted on the Board's FOIA webpage on December 11, 2006. Further, additional language explaining the scope of the information withheld pursuant to various exemptions is included in response letters.

4.Improve the Board's FOIA Webpage

Planned Activity:
  1. Supplement the Board's FOIA webpage with:
  2. - detailed descriptions of the types of documents available in the Board's electronic reading room;
    - a link to the index of pending banking applications;
    - the Board's official records retention schedules.

In June 2006, the Board's FOIA electronic reading room was supplemented with detailed descriptions of the types of documents available in the reading room and a link to the index of pending banking applications. On December 11, 2006, a copy of the Board's records retention schedules was also added to the FOIA electronic reading room.

5.Identifying Recurring Issues and Making Further Enhancements

Planned Activity:
  1. Periodically evaluate all feedback, determine whether recurring issues are presented, and consider whether refinements to the Board's FOIA program are warranted.

Senior FOIA staff conferred to evaluate all feedback received immediately on receipt and prompt action was taken in the two instances where it was deemed necessary. No recurring issues were identified in any of the comments received.  The majority of the feedback acknowledged the outstanding customer service, thoroughness, and timeliness provided by the staff of the FOIA Service Center in responding to FOIA requests.

C. Identification and discussion of any deficiency in meeting plan milestones (if applicable) N/A
D. Additional narrative statement regarding other executive order-related activities (optional)

Senior Board Staff, responsible for FOIA matters, including the Board's Public Liaison and the Board's FOIA Service Center Manager have attended several meetings sponsored by the Department of Justice and Office of Management and Budget concerning implementation and compliance with the directives set forth in the Executive Order. The Board's Chief FOIA Officer, and other senior Board Staff responsible for FOIA matters, have also considered recommendations made in the Attorney's General's Report, dated October 16, 2006, regarding the "processes of FOIA administration within [the agency]," and have taken the following actions, after evaluation of these recommendations:

  1. We have considered using postcards to acknowledge FOIA requests rather than letters. The Board's acknowledgement letters are created electronically after the request is entered into the Board's automated FOIA tracking system, which usually occurs on the same day the request is received. These letters include the FOIA tracking number assigned to each request and contact information for the FOIA Service Center. Because the letters are generated automatically as part of a process we use to record all FOIA requests, no time would be saved by switching to postcards. Accordingly, we have determined to continue using letters to acknowledge FOIA requests.
  2. We have implemented the recommendation to "conduct reviews of all such standard (FOIA) forms and correspondence formats used by them... in order to ensure that they are fully reflective of the Executive Order's customer-service principles." All the Board's standard forms and correspondence have been reviewed, and changes were made to the Board's response letters to provide additional information to requesters regarding the scope of information withheld pursuant to the various exemptions.
  3. We have adopted the recommendation to explore the use of technology and automation to improve our FOIA operations, and have forwarded the names of Board staff who will participate in the Department of Justice Interagency Working Group on Electronic FOIA Processing Issues.
E. Concise descriptions of FOIA exemptions

The nine exemptions to the FOIA authorize federal agencies to withhold information covering: (1) classified national defense and foreign relations information; (2) internal agency rules and practices; (3) information that is prohibited from disclosure by another federal law; (4) trade secrets and other confidential business information; (5) inter-agency or intra-agency communications that are protected by legal privileges; (6) information involving matters of personal privacy; (7) records or information compiled for law enforcement purposes, to the extent that the production of those records (A) could reasonably be expected to interfere with enforcement proceedings, (B) would deprive a person of a right to a fair trial or an impartial adjudication, (C) could reasonably be expected to constitute an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy, (D) could reasonably be expected to disclose the identity of a confidential source, (E) would disclose techniques and procedures for law enforcement investigations or prosecutions, or would disclose guidelines for law enforcement investigations or prosecutions, or (F) could reasonably be expected to endanger the life or physical safety of any individual; (8) information relating to the supervision of financial institutions; and (9) geological information on wells.

F. Additional statistics:
  1. Time range of requests pending, by date of request (or, where applicable, by date of referral from another agency)

    September 28, 2006 to January 29, 2007

  2. Time range of consultations pending with other agencies, by date of initial interagency communication N/A
G. Attachment: Agency improvement plan (in current form)
http://www.federalreserve.gov/generalinfo/foia/foiaoperations.pdf (514 KB PDF)


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