A Federal Agency Spent Years Fighting to Uphold These Ridiculous Redactions

“11:45 is fine, will be at my desk”

“With the retirement of EXIM Bank’s former Chief Information Security Officer (CISO), EXIM Bank hired a new CISO.”

These are just two lines of innocuous text the Export-Import Bank (“EXIM”) fought to keep redacted in Cause of Action Institute’s (“CoA Institute”) Freedom of Information Act (“FOIA”) lawsuit that began in July 2019. In a final decision released in January 2022, Judge James Boasberg of the U.S District Court for the District of Columbia  ruled that EXIM would finally have to disclose this information after years of stonewalling.

CoA Institute submitted its first FOIA request to EXIM on September 20, 2018 seeking communications with its largest stakeholders and beneficiaries.  It followed-up with a second request in May 2019 seeking information about a Government Accountability Office report that found EXIM failed to use a readily available federal database to ensure it was not financing companies with delinquent federal debt.

We previously covered Judge Boasberg’s first ruling that EXIM would have to disclose records in February 2021. Discussing records regarding EXIM communications with the GAO, Judge Boasberg expressed marked displeasure with the agency: “Even the briefest in camera review reveals that [the agency’s] description [for why it withheld records] is plainly overbroad and — at least with respect to some of the withheld documents — seemingly inaccurate.”

As we celebrate Sunshine Week 2022, it’s important to remember how FOIA remains an imperfect tool that often requires litigation to get federal agencies to act in a transparent manner. Any FOIA reform must address this problem, particularly as it concerns the use of Exemption 5 and the deliberative-process privilege.

Here are the rest of the overbroad and plainly unjustified redactions EXIM was finally forced to disclose after almost two and a half years of litigation:

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Read more of CoA Institute’s work on EXIM:

 

EXIM Supporter Investigated for Potentially Defrauding the Bank

Cause of Action Institute recently received documents indicating that a repeat customer and vocal supporter of the Export-Import Bank of the United States (“EXIM”) allegedly defrauded the bank. EXIM, which is tasked with assisting the financing of U.S. exports, has gained a reputation for favoring certain companies over others, which is exemplified by its nickname “the Bank of Boeing” for its preferential treatment of the airline. Recent reports from the Government Accountability Office and the EXIM Inspector General (”IG”) have also shown a disconcerting susceptibility to fraud.

Learn More

CoA Calls on IG to Investigate Use of Government Owned Vehicles at EXIM Bank

Cause of Action Institute (CoA Institute), a nonpartisan government watchdog organization, sent a letter today to the Office of Inspector General (OIG) at the Export–Import Bank of the United States (EXIM Bank), requesting the EXIM Bank’s Inspector General investigate the use of government owned vehicles by EXIM Bank staff based on documents uncovered by Cause of Action Institute through a freedom of information request. The newly released documents reveal troubling evidence of EXIM Bank staff abusing the use of government owned vehicles.

Kevin Schmidt, director of investigations at Cause of Action Institute issued the following statement:

“We’re calling on the EXIM Bank’s Office of Inspector General to launch an investigation into what appears to be ongoing abuse and use of government vehicles by Bank staff.

“As a result of our own independent investigation, we’ve discovered what appears to be unauthorized use of government vehicles by Bank staff, lack of details in automobile use logs that are required under EXIM Bank policies, including staff leaving off the purpose for the use of government owned vehicles.

“As a financial institution with the power to hand out billions of dollars in federally subsidized and backed loans to corporations, all taxpayers should be concerned that the bank staff cannot seem to follow standard government automobile use protocols that are designed to prevent abuse and protect tax dollars.”

EXIM Bank’s OIG had previously investigated this matter in 2016, producing a report that included a detailed list of deficiencies by the Bank and Bank staffs’ use of government owned vehicles.

Letter and exhibits to the EXIM Bank’s Office of Inspector General

Questionable Vehicle Use

Ex-Im Vehicle Use Policy

2019.4.3 FOIA Request to Ex-Im Bank Vehicle Use