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FEDERAL HOUSING FINANCE AGENCY FOIA REFERENCE GUIDE

 

Introduction

The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), 5 U.S.C. Sec. 552, was enacted by Congress and signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson in 1966.  The FOIA provides that any person has the right to request access to federal agency records or information.  All agencies of the United States government are required to disclose records upon receiving a written request for them, except for certain records that are protected from discloser by one or more of the nine exemptions and/or three exclusions of the FOIA.  The federal FOIA does not, however, provide access to records held by state or local government agencies, or by private businesses or individuals. 

The FOIA Reference Guide is designed to familiarize you with the procedures for making a FOIA request to the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) for FHFA records.  In addition, FHFA's formal rule, 1202 of Title 12 of the Code of Federal Regulations, for making FOIA requests, can be accessed here.  You can also request a copy of FHFA FOIA rule from the FHFA Headquarters FOIA Office by sending a request to foia@fhfa.gov, by telephone at 202-649-3803, by facsimile at 202-649-1073, or by regular mail to the FOIA Office, Federal Housing Finance Agency, 400 7th Street, S.W., Eighth Floor, Washington, D.C. 20219. Please note that all mail sent to FHFA via the United States Postal Service is routed through a national irradiation facility, a process that can delay delivery by approximately two weeks. For any time-sensitive correspondence, please plan accordingly.
 

Information about how to make a FOIA request to FHFA can be found below:

Where to Request Records

How to File a FOIA Request

FOIA Fee Schedule

Fee Waiver

FOIA Requester Categories

Response Time

Expedited Processing

FOIA Exemptions and FOIA Exclusions

Initial Request Determination

Appeals

 

Where to Request Records

To submit a FOIA request for FHFA Headquarters records mail to FOIA Office, Federal Housing Finance Agency, 400 7th Street, S.W., Eighth Floor, Washington, D.C. 20219 or email to foia@fhfa.gov.

To submit a FOIA request for FHFA Office of Inspector General records mail to OIG FOIA Office, Federal Housing Finance Agency Office of Inspector General, 400 7th Street, S.W., Third Floor, Washington, D.C. 20219 or email to foia@fhfaoig.gov

Requests submitted after normal business hours (8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., Eastern Time, Monday through Friday), will be deemed received on the next normal business day. Please note that all mail sent to FHFA via the United States Postal Service is routed through a national irradiation facility, a process that may delay delivery by approximately two weeks. For any time-sensitive correspondence, please plan accordingly. Envelopes should be marked "Freedom of Information Act Request."

Before you submit a FOIA request, you may wish to visit FHFA's website and FHFA-OIG's website where there is a great deal of information. You can also obtain records that are publicly available by visiting the FOIA Reading Room  of each office.


How to File a FOIA Request


Although there is no special form for filing a request, your request must be in writing, contain a description of the records sought and include the amount of fees you are willing to pay. When describing the records you seek, you request should include as much specific information as possible, such as names, dates, titles, author, recipient, subject matter, or file designations, or the description of the record. The more specific you are about the records or types of records that you want; the more likely it will be that the FHFA will be able to locate those records. Please note that the FOIA does not require agencies to answer questions, or to create records to respond to a request.

Under certain circumstance, you may be entitled to receive more information under the Privacy Act of 1974 than under the FOIA. Under the FOIA anyone can request any record. Privacy Act request are more limited to U.S. residence who are seeking information about themselves, which is in a system of maintained under a unique identifier (e.g., name, ssn, loan number, etc.). Even if a request does not mention the Privacy Act, FHFA automatically treats requests as being made under both the FOIA and the Privacy Act whenever it is appropriate to do so. For more information regarding the Privacy Act please visit FHFA's Privacy Act website here.


FOIA Fee Schedule

FOIA request fees are based on time spent searching, reviewing, and making available for inspection or copying, documents.  For the current calendar year, the fees would be assessed as follows:

 

Search and Review

Grade Group Processing Request

Rate

Unit

EL-14 and above

$108.95

Per Hour

EL-10 to EL-13

$63.71

Per Hour

EL-6 to EL-9

$37.82

Per Hour


Duplication

Fee Item Description

Rate

Unit

Photocopy (hard copy or electronic equivalent, includes but is not limited to scanning)

$.15

Per Page

CD

$1.00

Each

Transcription of audio tapes

$4.50

Per Page

​Certification, seal and attestation

​$5.00

​Per Document


Delivery

Fee Item Description

Rate

Unit

Express

Actual Cost

N/A

Facsimile Transmission

$.25 per call plus $.25 per page

N/A


A fee is not charged if the charges for processing the request are less than or equal to the cost of routine collection processing of the fee. Therefore, if the total of charges due for processing a request is less than $25.00, no fee will be charged. If the estimated fee exceeds $100.00 the requester will be notified, unless the requester has stated in the FOIA request an amount sufficient to cover the estimated fees.

You may include in your request letter a specific statement limiting the amount that you are willing to pay in fees. If you do not do so, you will be asked to express your commitment to pay the estimated fees and the processing of your request will be suspended until you agree to do so. Ordinarily you will not be required to actually pay the fees until the records have been processed. If, however, you have failed to pay fees in the past or if the estimated fees exceed $1,000.00, you may be required to pay the estimated fees in advance, that is, before the records are processed. If you agree to pay fees and then fail to do so, you may be charged interest on your overdue balance and FHFA will not process any further requests from you until payment has been made in full. Also, if you agree to pay for searching records, be aware that you may be required to pay such fees even if the search does not locate any responsive records or, if records are located, they are withheld as entirely exempt.


Fee Waiver

If you expect or are advised that a fee will be charged, you may request a fee waiver pursuant to the FOIA 5 U.S.C. § 552(a)(4)(A)(iii) and FHFA's FOIA regulation, 5 CFR 1202.11(h).  In order for FHFA to make a determination on your request for a fee waiver, you must satisfy the statutory requirements by addressing the following factors:

  1. The subject matter of the requested records must specifically concern identifiable operations or activities of the government;
  2. The disclosure of the requested information must be "meaningfully informative" in order for the disclosure to be "likely to contribute" to the public understanding of government operations or activities;
  3. The disclosure of requested records must contribute to "public understanding" not just a narrow segment of interested persons;
  4. The disclosure must contribute "significantly" to public understanding of government operations or activities;
  5. Whether the request involves any "commercial interest of the requester" which would be furthered by the disclosure. Status as a nonprofit organization or representative of the news media is not alone sufficient to satisfy this requirement; and
  6. Whether the magnitude of the identified commercial interest of the requester is sufficiently large, in comparison with the public interest in disclosure, that disclosure is primarily in the commercial interest of the requester.

Please note that a requester's inability to pay fees is not a legal basis for granting a fee waiver. 

FOIA Requester Categories

For the purposes of fees, the FOIA divides requesters into three categories. The following is a chart of the three specific categories and chargeable fees:

FOIA Requester Category

Chargeable Service Fees

Commercial Requester

Search and Review time, and Duplication cost or an electronic equivalent

Noncommercial Requester - three subcategories (Educational Institution, Non-commercial Scientific Institution, and Representative of the News Media)

Duplication cost (in excess of 100 pages, or an electronic equivalent of 100 pages)

All Other Requesters

Search time (after the first 2 hours) and  Duplication cost (in excess of 100 pages, or an electronic equivalent of 100 pages)



Response Time

Under the FOIA, all federal agencies are required to respond to a valid FOIA request within twenty (20) business days, excluding Saturday, Sundays, and legal holiday.  This period does not begin until the request is actually received by the FOIA office of the agency. An agency is not required to send out the releasable documents by the last business day; it can send you a letter informing you of its decision and then send out the documents within a reasonable time afterwards.

Under the FOIA, an agency may extend the response time for an additional ten business days when: (1) the agency needs to collect responsive records from various offices; (2) the request involves a "voluminous" amount of records which must be located compiled, and reviewed; or (3) the agency must consult with another agency which has a substantial interest in the responsive material.


Expedited Processing

Under certain conditions, you may be entitled to have your request processed on an expedited basis. FHFA will grant expedited processing pursuant to the FOIA and FHFA regulation, 12 CFR Part 1202.10, if the request demonstrates a compelling need by establishing one or more of the following: 

  1. Circumstances in which the lack of expedited treatment could reasonably be expected to pose an imminent threat to the life or physical safety of an individual;
  2. An urgency to inform the public about an actual or alleged Federal Government activity if you are a person primarily engaged in disseminating information;
  3. The loss of substantial due process or rights;
  4. A matter of widespread and exceptional media interest in which there exist possible questions about the Federal Government's integrity, affecting public confidence; or
  5. Humanitarian need.

A request for expedited processing must be accompanied by a statement setting forth the reasons why your request should be expedited. You should certify that the reasons you have given are true and correct. FHFA is required to notify you of its decision whether to grant expedited processing within no more than 10 days after receiving your request. If an agency denies your request for expedited processing, you will be advised of your right to an administrative appeal.


FOIA Exemptions and FOIA Exclusions

Pursuant to the FOIA, a federal agency can withhold information if the information pertains to one or more of the FOIA exemption. The nine exemptions are:

FOIA Exemption

FOIA Exemption Description

(b)(1)

Classified national defense and foreign relations information

(b)(2)

Internal agency rules and practices

(b)(3)

Information that is prohibited from disclosure by another federal law

(b)(4)

Trade secrets and other confidential business information

(b)(5)

Inter-agency or intra-agency communication that are protected by legal privileges

(b)(6)

Information involving matters of personal privacy

(b)(7)

Certain types of information compiled for law enforcement purposes

(b)(8)

Information relating to the supervision of financial institutions

(b)(9)

geological information of wells


The three exclusions are:

​FOIA Exclusion

​FOIA Exclusion Description

​(c)(1)

​Where the subject of a criminal investigation or proceeding is unaware of the existence of records concerning a pending investigation and disclosure of such records would interfere with the investigation.

​(c)(2)

​Where there are informant records maintained by a criminal law enforcement agency and the individual's status as an informant is not known.

​(c)(3)

​Where there are classified FBI records pertaining to foreign intelligence, counterintelligence or international terrorism records.


Initial Request Determination

Once FHFA has processed your request and all fee issues have been resolved, the agency will send you a written initial determination. The FOIA provides access to all federal agency records (or portions of those records), except for those records that are withheld under one or more of the nine FOIA exemptions or three exclusions (see above). The determination letter, if applicable, will provide you with the number of pages and/or documents found in response to your request, a brief description of those records, the number of pages being released, and the number of pages being withheld pursuant to one or more of the FOIA exemptions. The letter will also provide you of your appeal rights.

 

Appeals

Pursuant to the FOIA and FHFA regulation, 12 CFR Part 1202.9, you may file an administrative appeal on any aspect of FHFA's decision   (i.e., initial determination, fee waiver, or expedited processing). Your appeal must be in writing and addressed to the FOIA Appeal Officer by clicking here, or mail to FOIA Office, Federal Housing Finance Agency, 400 7th Street, S.W., Washington, D.C. 20219. To ensure that your appeal gets routed correctly, please mark your appeal with "FOIA Appeal." Your appeal must be filed within 90 calendar days of the date of the decision made by FHFA. Your appeal must include the following: (1) copy of your initial request; (2) copy of the initial determination; and (3) the reason(s) to support your appeal. A determination on your appeal will be in writing and sent to you within 20 days, unless an extension is requested. FOIA appeals submitted after normal business hours (8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., Eastern Time, Monday through Friday), will be deemed received on the next normal business day.

If you still believe that the FHFA has not handled your FOIA request in accordance with the law, you have the right to challenge the agency's action in federal court, or you may seek the assistance from the Office of Government Information Services of the National Archives and Records Administration (OGIS). You may find information about OGIS www.ogis.archives.gov.

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