Annual Report on the Freedom of Information Act
for Fiscal Year 1999

Board of Governor of the Federal Reserve System
February 1, 2000


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

  1. The Board's contact person for questions about this report is Martha Connor, Assistant 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.

  2. Electronic address for this report on the Board's World Wide Web site: http://www.federalreserve.gov/generalinfo/foia/anrpt_1999.htm

  3. 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

  1. The Board's Guide to Requesting Records or Information provides information on the Board's duties, sources of records and information, a description of the types of documents maintained by the Freedom of Information Office, and a brief description of how to make a FOIA request. 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 the Board's contact person (see I.A. above). The Federal Reserve Banks of Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Cleveland, Richmond, Atlanta, Chicago, St. Louis, Minneapolis, Kansas City, Dallas, and San Francisco also provide certain public information and public portions of applications filed with a particular Reserve Bank.

  2. The Board makes every effort to comply with the statutory time period for responding to FOIA requests. Approximately 98 percent of the 1633 simple requests processed and approximately 56 percent of the 527 complex requests processed in Fiscal Year 1999 were responded to within the statutory time period.

  3. 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); 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 and with policy guidance from the U.S. Department of Justice.

III. Definition of Terms and Acronyms Used in the Report

  1. 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)

  2. 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. The Board also has a policy of processing requests for the public portion of an application filed under its Regulation Y (12 CFR 225) within 3 business days of receiving the request. These requests are classified as simple requests (see III.B.7 below) on the Board's tracking system.

    7. Simple request -- a FOIA request that the Board, which uses multi-track processing, places in its fastest (nonexpedited) track based on the volume and/or simplicity of records requested. A simple request usually involves records that are readily identifiable by the Board's Freedom of Information Office and that have been cleared previously for public release.

    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. A complex request is a request that does not qualify as a simple request, and is processed under the Board's normal procedures, unless the request has been accorded expedited processing.

    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 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 nonworking days can vary from request to request depending 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 Saturdays, Sundays, 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. Exemption 3 Statutes

During fiscal year 1999, the Board partially denied the disclosures of records under Exemption 3 (5 U.S.C. 552 (b)(3)) on two occasions because the material consisted of grand jury information that the Board is prohibited from releasing under Rule 6(e) of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure. These denials have not been challenged in court.

V. Initial FOIA/PA Access Requests

  1. Numbers of initial requests.

    1. Number of requests pending as of end of FY 1998: 1681

    2. Number of requests received during FY 1999: 2112

    3. Number of requests processed during FY 1999: 2160

    4. Number of requests pending as of end of FY 1999: 120 (enter on Line VII.B.1)

  2. Disposition of initial requests.

    1. Number of total grants: 1642

    2. Number of partial grants: 190

    3. Number of denials: 192

      a. number of times each FOIA exemption used (counting each exemption once per request)

        (1) Exemption 1: 0

        (2) Exemption 2: 2

        (3) Exemption 3: 2

        (4) Exemption 4: 140

        (5) Exemption 5: 177

        (6) Exemption 6: 60

        (7) Exemption 7(A): 3

        (8) Exemption 7(B): 0

        (9) Exemption 7(C): 6

        (10) Exemption 7(D): 1

        (11) Exemption 7(E): 3

        (12) Exemption 7(F): 0

        (13) Exemption 8: 72

        (14) Exemption 9: 0

    4. Other reasons for nondisclosure (total): 367

        a. no records: 150 [117]3

        b. referrals: 88 [80]

        c. request withdrawn: 53 [53]

        d. fee-related reason: 16 [7]

        e. records not reasonably described: 6 [4]

        f. not a proper FOIA request for some other reason: 5 [5]

        g. not an agency record: 8 [3]

        h. duplicate request: 36 [36]

        i. other (specify): 5 [4]4

VI. Appeals of Initial Denials of FOIA/PA Requests

  1. Numbers of appeals.

    1. Number of appeals received during FY 1999: 25

    2. Number of appeals processed during FY 1999: 27

  2. Disposition of appeals.

    1. Number completely upheld: 23

    2. Number partially reversed: 4

    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: 1

        (3) Exemption 3: 0

        (4) Exemption 4: 11

        (5) Exemption 5: 11

        (6) Exemption 6: 7

        (7) Exemption 7(A): 2

        (8) Exemption 7(B): 0

        (9) Exemption 7(C): 3

        (10) Exemption 7(D): 0

        (11) Exemption 7(E): 2

        (12) Exemption 7(F): 0

        (13) Exemption 8: 3

        (14) Exemption 9: 0

    4. Other reasons for nondisclosure (total): 16

        a. no records: 2

        b. referrals: 0

        c. request withdrawn: 2

        d. fee-related reason: 1

        e. records not reasonably described: 0

        f. not a proper FOIA request for some other reason: 1

        g. not an agency record: 3

        h. duplicate request: 1

        i. other (specify): 65

VII. Compliance with Time Limits/Status of Pending Requests

  1. Median processing time for requests processed during FY 1999.

    1. Simple requests.

      1. number of requests processed: 1633

      2. median number of calendar days to process: 3

    2. Complex requests.

      1. number of requests processed: 527

      2. median number of calendar days to process: 40

    3. Requests accorded expedited processing.

      1. number of requests processed: 0

      2. median number of calendar days to process: N/A

  2. Status of pending requests.

    1. Number of requests pending as of end of FY 1999: 120
      (entered from Line V.A.4.)

    2. Median number of calendar days that such requests were pending as of that date: 42

VIII. Comparison with Previous Year(s) (Optional)

1998 1999 Change
A. Requests received: 3355 2112 37% decrease
B. Requests processed: 3352 2160 36% decrease
C. Median Days Pending FY: 48.5 42 13% decrease
D. The number of pending requests for FY 1999 has been reduced by more than 20 percent compared with FY 1998.
E. The Board has made a number of efforts to improve the timeliness of its FOIA performance and to make records available to the public. All requests are entered into the Board's centralized data base, which tracks the applicable time limit on each request. Monthly reports on pending FOIA requests are regularly reviewed by supervisors in the FOIA process and by directors of divisions with FOIA responsibilities. Supervisors and directors have complete discretion to direct that immediate steps be taken to address backlogs or unusually late requests, and frequently exercise this discretion. The Board also routinely makes an increasing amount of information available throught its Web site, which in FY 1999 had approximately 3.1 million visits, and the Internet has significantly affected the operations of the Freedom of Information Office. For example, there was a notable decrease in the number of FOIA requests processed in FY 1999. This decrease reflected a large reduction in the number of simple requests which, in turn, increased the median number of processing days for those requests because the requests that were eliminated took the fewest days to process. The number of complex requests decreased less significantly, but these requests primarily involved large numbers of documents or requests that required searches of historical records. The Board will continue its efforts to make more information available through the Internet and to monitor the effect of those efforts on processing FOIA requests.

IX. Cost/FOIA Staffing

  1. Staffing levels.

    1. Number of full-time FOIA personnel: 7

    2. Number of personnel with part-time or occasional FOIA duties (in total work-years): 5.62

    3. Total number of personnel (in work-years): 12.62

  2. Total costs (including staff and all resources).

    1. FOIA processing (including appeals): $875,889.00

    2. Litigation-related activities (estimated): $80,000.00

    3. Total costs: $955,889.00

    4. Comparison with previous year(s) (including percentage of change) (optional):

          1998  1999  Change 
      A. FOIA Processing:      909575  875889  4% decrease
      B. Litigation Related: 42760 80000 87% increase
      C. Total Costs: 952335 955889 <1% increase

  3. Statement of additional resources needed for FOIA compliance (optional):

    This information will be provided in future reports, as appropriate.

X. Fees

  1. Total amount of fees collected by agency for processing requests: $45,598.00

  2. Percentage of total costs: 4.7 percent (approximate)

XI. FOIA Regulations (Including Fee Schedule)

The Board's Rules Regarding Availability of Information, including the fee schedule, are codified at 12 CFR Part 261.


Footnotes

1. The Annual Report for FY 1998 (Line V.A.4) noted 160 pending requests. During the preparation of this report, eight additional pending requests were revealed for FY 1998 that were inadvertently omitted during our conversion to a new tracking system. They are included in this line item. Return to text

2. Records were withheld in these requests under one or more of the FOIA's exemptions. In an additional 309 requests, no records were disclosed for other reasons enumerated in item V.B.4. See footnote 3. Return to text

3. Brackets indicate the number of requests in which the reason designated under item V.B.4 was the only reason for nondisclosure. These numbers are used to calculate the additional requests discussed in footnote 2. Return to text

4. The 5 requests designated in this item involve requesters who were requested to contact Board staff to provide additional information necessary to process their requests, but who failed to do so. Return to text

5. The 6 appeals designated in this item are as follows: 3 appeals denied a request for discretionary release of records, 1 appeal upheld the initial determination that a request applies only to documents in existence at the time the request is received, 1 interim appeal upheld a denial of expedited processing, and 1 appeal was administratively cancelled because the initial request was granted in full. Return to text


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