FOIA Advisor

FOIA News: Commentary on suit against SEC concerning Wal-Mart bribery probe

FOIA News (2015-16)Allan BlutsteinComment

Why the SEC is keeping the public in the dark on Wal-Mart

By Eleanor Bloxham, Fortune, April 22, 2015

The public is entitled to an investor protection agency that boosts trust in the capital markets. Too often, the plaintiff’s bar has to step in when the SEC fails.

There’s been a lot of hullabaloo lately about the release of records by presidential candidates like Jeb Bush and Hillary Clinton. In certain circles, the notion of spreading some sunshine—offering transparency and open access to public records—has garnered major support. An ongoing lawsuit in middle Tennessee U.S. district court, filed by law firm Robbins Geller against the SEC, represents just how important such access can be.

The lawsuit seeks documents that the SEC has refused to provide as part of a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request. The investor protection agency says it can’t release the documents because they are part of an ongoing investigation and release of the documents would impede their efforts. SEC spokesperson John Nester told me that the SEC couldn’t comment on the investigation or the case beyond the court filings.

Government agencies routinely attempt to brush off public requests for documents. But in this case, the documents concern the alleged Wal-Mart Mexico bribery scandal, which I wrote about twice for Fortune in May 2012 following the New York Times investigation and articles.

Remainder of article here.