The Securities and Exchange Commision (SEC) manages one of the largest backlogs of complicated Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests due to its role in oversight of the financial sector. Specifically, SEC required full FOIA Program support services:
- Review program records for responsiveness and suggest releasibility determinations.
- Prepare records for release, including the redaction of materials to be withheld, and duplicating materials as necessary.
- Also, released materials do not contain information exempted under the applicable statutes or other non-releasable information.
- Furthermore, apply appropriate exemptions to documents responsive to FOIA requests.
- Maintain cases and case files following established procedures and timelines.
Backlog of Difficult FOIA Cases in Need of Expert Review
Most SEC FOIA cases are highly complex, voluminous, and sensitive. SEC was also frequently faced requests that required extensive research. Consequently, this inevitably led to a decreased output of processed FOIA requests. Due to this level of complexity, the SEC required an expert-level opinion that could provide analysis services. The SEC further needed the assistance of a contractor to perform FOIA support services to assist the SEC by performing FOIA releasability reviews for the public, apply the nine FOIA exemptions as applicable, and provide redactions to documents that are responsive to FOIA requests.
Xentity provided complex and large analysis of FOIA and administrative support for 4 divisions of the SEC. Xentity staff provided processing support for numerous documents and consequently established themselves as a trusted, high-performing partner of the SEC. Specifically, team provided:
|Processing / Redacting Requests
|Performance Metrics Support
|Respondent Data and information
Program / Litigation Risk Analysis
Support Strategic Decision Making
Case Inquiry Tracking
Coordinate Case Responses
Coordinate / Support Appeals
Records Management / Tracking
Special Project Assignments
|Administer / Manage FOIA Cases
Process FOIA Cases
Strategic Plan Support
Program Financial Analysis
Review Applicable Guidelines / Laws
Draft Notices, Coordinate Security
Implement Backlog Reductions
Conduct Research as Needed
|Draft Letters & Communiques
Conference / Call / Meeting Support
Update Designated RM Systems
Deliver Case Files
Prepare Monthly Attendance
Review Closure Checklists
To reach the solution, Xentity had to provide Senior FOIA Analyst Services to the SEC. Specifically, we processed and tracked the FOIA request correspondence, supported responses to FOIA requests, tracked the process through client support for final decisions, supported FOIA leadership in providing direct support functions for drafting memos and and prepared responses to FOIA requests.
Throughout this project, Xentity performed initial analysis to determine FOIA request validity and assure requests were accurately and fairly addressed. This specifically included evaluating compliance, scope, reasonable, fee, processing time. Xentity also supported dispute resolution and appeals of requests for expedition and fee waivers. Furthermore, we provided FOIA recommendations and guidance to SEC leadership to support legal interpretations of the FOIA as it affected exemptions and release of documents, among other related topics including drafting response detailing review and determination and initial analysis of submitter objections. And we developed plans, evaluate efficiencies while ensuring compliance, modify processes, improving performance, prepare communications and training to improve the process.
Exceptional Service and High Metrics
The Xentity team has realized a great deal of measurable accomplishments during this contract. The SEC FOIA Services Team received the “Exceptional Service” award from the Department of Justice (DOJ) in both 2017 and 2018. Also, the team reached a 94% Request Closure rate for FOIA-related. In that time we also closed 7856 cases in total from 4/6/2016 to 12/14/2018. Xentity also processed over 20,000 CT scans from 4/7/2017 to 4/6/2018. Consequently, SEC found a helpful partner in processing a voluminous amount of complex FOIA requests. And as a law designed to grant the general public information upon request, these actions also granted new information and documents to those who desired it.