FOIA at the Anti-Trust Division By Eric Lynch

Freedom of Information Act

Since records in the Executive Branch are subject to the Freedom of Information Act, any citizen can request access to any document unless they are bound from public disclosure. For example, the Department of Justice website explains that records affecting “national security, personal privacy, privileged records, and law enforcement interests” are sealed from the public in most cases.

If a member of the public wishes to gain access to records related to antitrust violations and cases, a FOIA request must be submitted in writing directly to the Antitrust Division of the Department of Justice. No forms are required to make the request, but for privacy reasons, a notarized letter or signed statement is needed to request any personal information on record. Otherwise, the privacy exception prevents that information from being disclosed. To request information about another person, their consent is required, unless it has been made public already.

The DOJ is generally very cooperative in obtaining records upon individuals’ requests. In addition to FOIA, other documents may be made available to certain individuals under the Privacy Act of 1974. The scope of this act is much more narrow in terms of what types of documents it makes available. However, the DOJ will treat relevant requests as if they are made under both acts, which increases the possibility that members of the public will be able to access their desired materials.

The “Free” in Freedom of Information Act

There are various fees associated with the time spent preparing records, and the number of pages requested. The department will not charge for requests under $14 (at ten cents a page) but will automatically charge fees up to $25. If a request is expected to go above this amount, the DOJ will follow up with the requester to confirm the charge or narrow the scope of the request, lowering the cost.

The Department of Justice must follow up on FOIA requests within twenty business days, but this can be extended to thirty under certain circumstances. One can also submit a request to expedite receipt of the desired records under other conditions, but this is not guaranteed.

For more information on the process of FOIA requests by the media see our “Media Access” page.


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