A non-profit group called the Cause of Action Institute has filed a lawsuit against the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, alleging that the CFPB violated the Freedom of Information Act for failing to release certain documents related to the bureau’s rulemaking process regarding mandatory arbitration clauses.
“To issue a regulation affecting such a vast swath of the economy, and then attempt to conceal the bulk of the documents reflecting how that decision was made from public view, violates the law and the American people’s right to know,” said John Vecchione, vice president of the Cause of Action Institute, said in a statement. The institute, which bills itself as “advocates for government accountability.”
The institute is seeking documents related to the rulemaking process as well as a survey the CFPB conducted. The CFPB has provided some of the information requested by the CoA, but withheld other documents, which led to the lawsuit, filed Tuesday in the District Court for the District of Columbia.
In filing the lawsuit, the CoA is seeking the information it originally requested and attorney’s fees for having to file the suit.
The original FOIA request filed by the CoA in April — “All records by or between CFPB employees regarding the Arbitration Study and/or the Proposed Ban — yielded more than 20,000 records. Subsequent revisions to the request whittled the number down to about 4,000 records. The CoA was looking for:
- a. MUST contain words “arbitration study” and/or “proposed ban”;
- b. AND ANY of the words “methodology” OR “peer review” OR “junk” OR “bad science” OR “flawed report” OR “massage numbers”.
The CFPB reviewed the request and decided to produce 845 pages in full, 832 pages in part and withhold 1,877 pages based on certain exclusions to the Freedom of Information Act. The institute appealed the ruling, which was denied, and then subsequently filed the lawsuit. In its complaint, the CoA details each of the exclusions and why they should not have been used for this inquiry.