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e-CFR data is current as of January 14, 2021

Title 12Chapter XPart 1070 → Subpart B


Title 12: Banks and Banking
PART 1070—DISCLOSURE OF RECORDS AND INFORMATION


Subpart B—Freedom of Information Act


Contents
§1070.10   General.
§1070.11   Information made available; discretionary disclosures.
§1070.12   Publication in the Federal Register.
§1070.13   Public inspection in an electronic format.
§1070.14   Requests for CFPB records.
§1070.15   Responsibility for responding to requests for CFPB records.
§1070.16   Timing of responses to requests for CFPB records.
§1070.17   Requests for expedited processing.
§1070.18   Responses to requests for CFPB records.
§1070.19   Classified information.
§1070.20   Requests for business information provided to the CFPB.
§1070.21   Administrative appeals.
§1070.22   Fees for processing requests for CFPB records.
§1070.23   Authority and responsibilities of the Chief FOIA Officer.

Source: 83 FR 46084, Sept. 12, 2018, unless otherwise noted.

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§1070.10   General.

This subpart contains the regulations of the CFPB implementing the Freedom of Information Act (the FOIA), 5 U.S.C. 552, as amended. These regulations set forth procedures for requesting access to records maintained by the CFPB. These regulations should be read together with the FOIA, the 1987 Office of Management and Budget Guidelines for FOIA Fees, the CFPB's Privacy Act regulations set forth in subpart E of this part, and the FOIA web page on the CFPB's website, http://www.consumerfinance.gov, which provide additional information about this topic.

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§1070.11   Information made available; discretionary disclosures.

(a) In general. The FOIA provides for public access to information and records developed or maintained by Federal agencies. Generally, the FOIA divides agency information into three major categories and provides methods by which each category of information is to be made available to the public. The three major categories of information are as follows:

(1) Information required to be published in the Federal Register (see §1070.12);

(2) Information required to be made available for public inspection in an electronic format or, in the alternative, to be published and offered for sale (see §1070.13); and

(3) Information required to be made available to any member of the public upon specific request (see §§1070.14 through 1070.22).

(b) Discretionary disclosures. Even though a FOIA exemption may apply to the information or records requested, the CFPB may, if not precluded by law, elect under the circumstances not to apply the exemption. The fact that the exemption is not applied by the CFPB in response to a particular request shall have no precedential significance in processing other requests.

(c) Disclosures of records frequently requested. Subject to the application of the FOIA exemptions and exclusions (5 U.S.C. 552(b) and (c)), the CFPB shall make publicly available, as provided by §1070.13, all records regardless of form or format, which have been released previously to any person under 5 U.S.C. 552(a)(3) and §§1070.14 through 1070.22, and which the CFPB determines have become or are likely to become the subject of subsequent requests for substantially the same records. When the CFPB receives three (3) or more requests for substantially the same records, then the CFPB shall also make the released records publicly available.

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§1070.12   Publication in the Federal Register.

(a) Requirement. The CFPB shall separately state, publish and maintain current in the Federal Register for the guidance of the public the following information:

(1) Descriptions of its central and field organization and the established place at which, the persons from whom, and the methods whereby, the public may obtain information, make submissions or requests, or obtain decisions;

(2) Statements of the general course and method by which its functions are channeled and determined, including the nature and requirements of all formal and informal procedures available;

(3) Rules of procedure, descriptions of forms available or the places at which forms may be obtained, and instructions as to the scope and contents of all papers, reports, or examinations;

(4) Substantive rules of general applicability adopted as authorized by law, and statements of general policy or interpretations of general applicability formulated and adopted by the CFPB; and

(5) Each amendment, revision, or repeal of matters referred to in paragraphs (a)(1) through (4) of this section.

(b) Exceptions. Publication of the information under paragraph (a) of this section shall be subject to the application of the FOIA exemptions and exclusions (5 U.S.C. 552(b) and (c)) and the limitations provided in 5 U.S.C. 552(a)(1).

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§1070.13   Public inspection in an electronic format.

(a) In general. Subject to the application of the FOIA exemptions and exclusions (5 U.S.C. 552(b) and (c)), the CFPB shall, in conformance with 5 U.S.C. 552(a)(2), make available for public inspection in an electronic format, including by posting on the CFPB's website, http://www.consumerfinance.gov, or, in the alternative, promptly publish and offer for sale the following information:

(1) Final opinions, including concurring and dissenting opinions, and orders made in the adjudication of cases;

(2) Those statements of policy and interpretations which have been adopted by the CFPB but are not published in the Federal Register;

(3) Its administrative staff manuals and instructions to staff that affect a member of the public;

(4) Copies of all records made publicly available pursuant to §1070.11; and

(5) A general index of the records referred to in paragraph (a)(4) of this section.

(b) Information made available online. For records required to be made available for public inspection in an electronic format pursuant to 5 U.S.C. 552(a)(2) (paragraphs (a)(1) through (4) of this section), as soon as practicable, the CFPB shall make such records available on its e-FOIA Library, located at http://www.consumerfinance.gov.

(c) Record availability at the on-site e-FOIA Library. Any member of the public may, upon request, access the CFPB's e-FOIA Library via a computer terminal at 1700 G Street NW, Washington, DC 20552. Such a request may be made by electronic means as set forth on the CFPB's website, http://www.consumerfinance.gov, or in writing, to the Chief FOIA Officer, Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, 1700 G Street NW, Washington, DC 20552. The request must indicate a preferred date and time for the requested access. The CFPB reserves the right to arrange a different date and time with the requester, if necessary.

(d) Redaction of identifying details. To prevent a clearly unwarranted invasion of personal privacy, the CFPB may redact identifying details contained in any matter described in paragraphs (a)(1) through (4) of this section before making such matters available for inspection or publication. The justification for the redaction shall be explained fully in writing, and the extent of such redaction shall be indicated on the portion of the record which is made available or published, unless including that indication would harm an interest protected by the exemption in 5 U.S.C. 552(b) under which the redaction is made. If technically feasible, the extent of the redaction shall be indicated at the place in the record where the redaction is made.

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§1070.14   Requests for CFPB records.

(a) In general. Subject to the application of the FOIA exemptions and exclusions (5 U.S.C. 552(b) and (c)), the CFPB shall promptly make its records available to any person pursuant to a request that conforms to the rules and procedures of this section.

(b) Form of request. A request for records of the CFPB shall be made in writing as follows:

(1) If a request is submitted by mail or delivery service, it shall be addressed to the Chief FOIA Officer, Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, 1700 G Street NW, Washington, DC 20552. The request shall be labeled “Freedom of Information Act Request.”

(2) If a request is submitted by electronic means, it shall be submitted as set forth on the CFPB's website, http://www.consumerfinance.gov. The request shall be labeled “Freedom of Information Act Request.”

(c) Content of request. (1) In order to ensure the CFPB's ability to respond in a timely manner, a FOIA request must describe the records that the requester seeks in sufficient detail to enable CFPB personnel to locate them with a reasonable amount of effort. Whenever possible, the request should include specific information about each record sought, such as the date, title or name, author, recipient, and subject matter of the record. If known, the requester should include any file designations or descriptions for the records requested. The more specific the requester is about the records or type of records requested, the more likely the CFPB will be able to locate those records in response to the request;

(2) In order to ensure the CFPB's ability to communicate effectively with the requester, a request should include contact information for the requester, including the name of the requester and, to the extent available, a mailing address, telephone number, and email address at which the CFPB may contact the requester regarding the request;

(3) The request should state whether the requester wishes to receive the records in a specific format;

(4) A requester should indicate in the request whether the requester is a commercial user, an educational institution, non-commercial scientific institution, representative of the news media, or “other” requester, as those terms are defined in §1070.22(b), and the basis for claiming that fee category;

(5) If a requester seeks a waiver or reduction of fees associated with processing a request, then the request shall include a statement to that effect as is required by §1070.22(e); and

(6) If a requester seeks expedited processing of a request, then the request must include a statement to that effect as is required by §1070.17.

(d) Perfected requests; effect of request deficiencies. For purposes of computing its deadline to respond to a request, the CFPB will deem itself to have received a request only if, and on the date that, it receives a request that contains substantially all of the information required by and that otherwise conforms with paragraphs (b) and (c) of this section. The CFPB need not accept a request, process a request, or be bound by any deadlines in this subpart for processing a request that fails to conform, in any material respect, to the requirements of paragraphs (b) and (c) of this section. If a request is deficient in any material respect, then the CFPB may return it to the requester and if it does so, it shall advise the requester in what respect the request is deficient, and what additional information is needed to respond to the request. The requester may then amend or resubmit the request. A determination by the CFPB that a request is deficient in any respect is not a denial of a request for records and such determinations are not subject to appeal. If a requester fails to respond to a CFPB notification that a request is deficient within thirty (30) days of the CFPB's notification, the CFPB will deem the request withdrawn.

(e) Requests by an individual for CFPB records pertaining to that individual. An individual who wishes to inspect or obtain copies of records of the Bureau that pertain to that individual shall provide identity verification in accordance with §1070.53(c).

(f) Requests for CFPB records pertaining to another individual. Where a request for records pertains to a third party, a requester may receive greater access by submitting either a notarized authorization signed by that individual or a declaration by that individual made in compliance with the requirements set forth in 28 U.S.C. 1746 authorizing disclosure of the records to the requester, or submits proof that the individual is deceased (e.g., a copy of a death certificate or an obituary). The CFPB may require a requester to supply additional information if necessary in order to verify that a particular individual has consented to disclosure.

(g) Assistance from FOIA Public Liaison. Requesters may contact the CFPB's FOIA Public Liaison to seek assistance in determining the appropriate fee category, formatting of requests, or resolving any problems that arise prior to submitting a request or during the processing of a request. The FOIA Public Liaison can be contacted at the telephone number listed on the CFPB's website, http://www.consumerfinance.gov.

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§1070.15   Responsibility for responding to requests for CFPB records.

(a) In general. In determining which records are responsive to a request, the CFPB ordinarily will include only records in its possession as of the date the CFPB begins its search for them. If any other date is used, the CFPB shall inform the requester of that date.

(b) Authority to grant or deny requests. The Chief FOIA Officer shall be authorized to grant or deny any request for a record of the CFPB.

(c) Consultations, referrals and coordination. When reviewing a record in response to a request, the CFPB will determine whether another agency is better able to determine whether the record is exempt from disclosure under the FOIA. As to any such record, the agency must proceed in one of the following ways:

(1) Referral. (i) When a requested record has been created by an agency other than the CFPB, the CFPB shall refer the record to that agency for a direct response to the requester.

(ii) Whenever the CFPB refers any part of the responsibility for responding to a request to another agency, it must document the referral, maintaining a copy of the record that it refers, and notify the requester of the referral, informing the requester of the name of the agency to which the record was referred, including that agency's FOIA contact information.

(2) Consultation. When a FOIA request is received for a record created by the CFPB that includes information originated by another agency, the CFPB shall consult the originating agency for review and recommendation on disclosure. The CFPB shall not release any such records without prior consultation with the originating agency.

(3) Coordination. The standard referral procedure is not appropriate where disclosure of the identity of the agency to which the referral would be made could harm an interest protected by an applicable exemption, such as the exemptions that protect personal privacy or national security interests. In such instances, in order to avoid harm to an interest protected by an applicable exemption, the agency that received the request should coordinate with the originating agency to seek its views on the disclosability of the record. The release determination for the record that is the subject of the coordination should then be conveyed to the requester by the agency that originally received the request.

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§1070.16   Timing of responses to requests for CFPB records.

(a) In general. Except as set forth in paragraphs (b) through (d) of this section, and §1070.17, the CFPB shall respond to requests according to their order of receipt.

(b) Multitrack processing. (1) The CFPB may establish separate tracks to process simple and complex requests. The CFPB may assign a request to the simple or complex track(s) based on the amount of work and/or time needed to process the request. The CFPB shall process requests in each track based on the date the request was perfected in accordance with §1070.14(d).

(2) The CFPB may provide a requester in its complex track with an opportunity to limit the scope of the request to qualify for faster processing within the specified limits of the simple track(s).

(c) Time period for responding to requests for records. Ordinarily, the CFPB shall have twenty (20) business days from when a request is received by the CFPB to determine whether to grant or deny a request for records. The twenty (20) business day time period set forth in this paragraph (c) shall not be tolled by the CFPB except that the CFPB may:

(1) Make one reasonable demand to the requester for clarifying information about the request and toll the twenty (20) business day time period while it awaits the clarifying information; or

(2) Toll the twenty (20) business day time period while it awaits clarification from or addresses any dispute with the requester regarding the assessment of fees.

(d) Unusual circumstances. (1) Where the CFPB determines that due to unusual circumstances it cannot respond either to a request within the time period set forth in paragraph (c) of this section or to an appeal within the time period set forth in §1070.21, the CFPB may extend the applicable time periods by informing the requester in writing of the unusual circumstances and of the date by which the CFPB expects to complete its processing of the request or appeal. Any extension or extensions of time with respect to a request or an appeal shall not cumulatively total more than ten (10) business days. However, if the CFPB determines that it needs additional time beyond a ten (10) business day extension to process a request, then the CFPB shall notify the requester, provide the requester with an opportunity to limit the scope of the request, arrange for an alternative time frame for processing the request, or modify the request, and notify the requester of the availability of services provided by its FOIA Public Liaison and the Office of Government Information Services (OGIS).

(2) As used in this paragraph (d), “unusual circumstances” means:

(i) The need to search for and collect the requested records from field facilities or other establishments that are separate from the office processing the request;

(ii) The need to search for, collect, and appropriately examine a voluminous amount of separate and distinct records which are demanded in a single request; or

(iii) The need for consultation, which shall be conducted with all practicable speed, with another agency having a substantial interest in the determination of the request, or among two or more CFPB offices having substantial subject matter interest therein.

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§1070.17   Requests for expedited processing.

(a) In general. The CFPB shall process a request on an expedited basis whenever a requester demonstrates a compelling need for expedited processing in accordance with the requirements of this paragraph (a) or in other cases that the CFPB deems appropriate.

(b) Form and content of a request for expedited processing. A request for expedited processing shall be made as follows:

(1) A request for expedited processing shall be made in writing and submitted as part of a request for records in accordance with §1070.14(b), or at any time during the processing of the request. When a request for records includes a request for expedited processing, the request shall be labeled “Expedited Processing Requested.”

(2) A request for expedited processing shall contain a statement that demonstrates a compelling need for the requester to obtain expedited processing of the requested records. A “compelling need” is defined as follows:

(i) Failure to obtain the requested records on an expedited basis could reasonably be expected to pose an imminent threat to the life or physical safety of an individual. The requester shall fully explain the circumstances warranting such an expected threat so that the CFPB may make a reasoned determination that a delay in obtaining the requested records could pose such a threat; or

(ii) With respect to a request made by a person primarily engaged in disseminating information, urgency to inform the public concerning actual or alleged Federal government activity. A requester who is not a full-time member of the news media must establish that the requester is a person whose primary professional activity or occupation is information dissemination, though it need not be the requester's sole occupation. Such a requester also must establish a particular urgency to inform the public about the government activity involved in the request—one that extends beyond the public's right to know about government activity generally. The existence of numerous articles published on a given subject can be helpful in establishing the requirement that there be an “urgency to inform” the public on the topic.

(3) The requester shall certify the written statement that purports to demonstrate a compelling need for expedited processing to be true and correct to the best of the requester's knowledge and belief. The certification must be in the form prescribed by 28 U.S.C. 1746: “I declare under penalty of perjury that the foregoing is true and correct to the best of my knowledge and belief. Executed on [date].” The requester shall mail or submit electronically a copy of such written certification to the Chief FOIA Officer as set forth in §1070.14(b). The CFPB may waive this certification requirement in appropriate circumstances.

(c) Determinations of requests for expedited processing. Within ten (10) calendar days of its receipt of a request for expedited processing, the CFPB shall decide whether to grant it and shall notify the requester of the determination in writing.

(d) Effect of granting requests for expedited processing. If the CFPB grants a request for expedited processing, then the CFPB shall give the expedited request priority over non-expedited requests and shall process the expedited request as soon as practicable. The CFPB may assign expedited requests to their own simple and complex processing tracks based upon the amount of work and/or time needed to process them. Within each such track, an expedited request shall be processed in the order of its receipt.

(e) Appeals of denials of requests for expedited processing. If the CFPB denies a request for expedited processing, then the requester shall have the right to submit an appeal of the denial determination in accordance with §1070.21. The CFPB shall communicate this appeal right as part of its written notification to the requester denying expedited processing. The requester shall label its appeal request “Appeal for Expedited Processing.” The CFPB shall act expeditiously upon an appeal of a denial of a request for expedited processing.

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§1070.18   Responses to requests for CFPB records.

(a) Acknowledgements of requests. Upon receipt of a request, the CFPB will assign to the request a unique tracking number. The CFPB will send an acknowledgement letter to the requester by mail or email within ten (10) calendar days of receipt of the request. The acknowledgment letter will contain the following information:

(1) The applicable request tracking number;

(2) The date of receipt of the request, as determined in accordance with §1070.14(d), as well as the date when the requester may expect a response;

(3) A brief statement identifying the subject matter of the request; and

(4) A confirmation, with respect to any fees that may apply to the request pursuant to §1070.22, that the requester has sought a waiver or reduction in such fees, has agreed to pay any and all applicable fees, or has specified an upper limit that the requester is willing to pay in fees to process the request.

(b) Initial determination to grant or deny a request. (1) The officer designated in §1070.15(b), or his or her delegate, shall make initial determinations either to grant or to deny in whole or in part requests for records.

(2) If the request is granted in full or in part, and if the requester requests a copy of the records requested, then a copy of the records shall be mailed or emailed to the requester in the requested format, to the extent the records are readily producible in the requested format. The CFPB shall also send the requester a statement of the applicable fees, either at the time of the determination or shortly thereafter, and inform the requester of the availability of its FOIA Public Liaison to offer assistance.

(3) In the case of a request for inspection, the requester shall be notified in writing of the determination, when and where the requested records may be inspected, and of the fees incurred in complying with the request. The CFPB shall then promptly make the records available for inspection at the time and place stated, in a manner that will not interfere with CFPB's operations and will not exclude other persons from making inspections. The requester shall not be permitted to remove the records from the room where inspection is made. If, after making inspection, the requester desires copies of all or a portion of the requested records, copies shall be furnished upon payment of the established fees prescribed by §1070.22. Fees may be charged for search and review time as stated in §1070.22.

(4) If it is determined that the request for records should be denied in whole or in part, the requester shall be notified by mail or by email. The letter of notification shall:

(i) State the exemptions relied upon in denying the request;

(ii) If technically feasible, indicate the amount of information deleted and the exemptions under which the deletion is made at the place in the record where such deletion is made (unless providing such indication would harm an interest protected by the exemption relied upon to deny such material);

(iii) Set forth the name and title or position of the responsible official;

(iv) Advise the requester of the right to seek dispute resolution services from the Bureau's FOIA Public Liaison or the Office of Governmental Information Services;

(v) Advise the requester of the right to administrative appeal in accordance with §1070.21; and

(vi) Specify the official or office to which such appeal shall be submitted.

(5) If it is determined, after a reasonable search for records, that no responsive records have been found to exist, the requester shall be notified in writing or by email. The notification shall also advise the requester of the right to administratively appeal the CFPB's determination that no responsive records exist (i.e., to challenge the adequacy of the CFPB's search for responsive records) in accordance with §1070.21. The response shall specify the official or office to which the appeal shall be submitted for review.

(c) Resolution of disputes. The CFPB is committed to efficiently resolving disputes during the request process. The following resources are available to requesters to resolve any disputes that may arise during the request process:

(1) FOIA Public Liaison. Any request related questions or concerns should be directed to the FOIA Public Liaison, who is responsible for reducing delays, increasing transparency and understanding of the status of requests, and assisting in the resolution of disputes.

(2) Dispute resolution. The National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), Office of Government Information Services (OGIS) offers non-compulsory, non-binding dispute resolution services to help resolve FOIA disputes. A requester may contact OGIS directly at Office of Government Information Services, National Archives and Records Administration, Room 2510, 8601 Adelphi Road, College Park, MD 20740-6001, Email: ogis@nara.gov, Phone: (301) 837-1996, Fax: (301) 837-0348. This information is provided as a public service only. By providing this information, the CFPB does not commit to refer disputes to OGIS.

(d) Format of records disclosed. (1) The CFPB will provide records in the requested format if the records can readily be reproduced from the original file to that specific format.

(2) The CFPB may charge fees associated with converting records or files into the requested format in accordance with §1070.22.

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§1070.19   Classified information.

Whenever a request is made for a record containing information that another agency has classified, or which may be appropriate for classification by another agency under Executive Order 13526 or any other executive order concerning the classification of information, the CFPB shall refer the responsibility for responding to the request to the classifying or originating agency, as appropriate.

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§1070.20   Requests for business information provided to the CFPB.

(a) In general. Business information provided to the CFPB by a business submitter shall not be disclosed pursuant to a FOIA request except in accordance with this section.

(b) Definitions. For purposes of this section:

(1) Business information means commercial or financial information obtained by the CFPB from a submitter that may be protected from disclosure under Exemption 4 of the FOIA, 5 U.S.C. 552(b)(4).

(2) Submitter means any person from whom the CFPB obtains business information, directly or indirectly. The term includes, without limitation, corporations, State, local, and tribal governments, and foreign governments.

(c) Designation of business information. A submitter of business information will use good-faith efforts to designate, by appropriate markings, either at the time of submission or at a reasonable time thereafter, any portions of its submission that it considers to be protected from disclosure under Exemption 4 of the FOIA. These designations will expire ten (10) years after the date of the submission unless the submitter requests otherwise and provides justification for, a longer designation period.

(d) Notice to submitters. The CFPB shall provide a submitter with prompt written notice of receipt of a request or appeal encompassing its business information whenever required in accordance with paragraph (e) of this section. Such written notice shall either describe the exact nature of the business information requested or provide copies of the records or portions of records containing the business information. When notification of a voluminous number of submitters is required, notification may be made by posting or publishing the notice in a place reasonably likely to accomplish it.

(e) When notice is required. (1) The CFPB shall provide a submitter with notice of receipt of a request or appeal whenever:

(i) The information has been designated in good faith by the submitter as information considered protected from disclosure under Exemption 4; or

(ii) The CFPB has reason to believe that the information may be protected from disclosure under Exemption 4.

(2) The notice requirements of this paragraph (e) shall not apply if:

(i) The CFPB determines that the information is exempt under the FOIA;

(ii) The information lawfully has been published or otherwise made available to the public;

(iii) Disclosure of the information is required by statute (other than the FOIA) or by a regulation issued in accordance with the requirements of Executive Order 12600 (3 CFR, 1988 Comp., p. 235); or

(iv) The designation made by the submitter under paragraph (e)(1)(i) of this section appears obviously frivolous, except that, in such a case, the CFPB shall, within a reasonable time prior to a specified disclosure date, give the submitter written notice of any final decision to disclose the information.

(f) Opportunity to object to disclosure before release. (1) Through the notice described in paragraph (d) of this section, the CFPB shall delay any release in order to afford a submitter ten (10) business days from the date of the notice to provide the CFPB with a detailed statement of any objection to disclosure. Such statement shall specify all grounds for withholding any of the information under any exemption of the FOIA and, in the case of Exemption 4, shall demonstrate why the information is considered to be a trade secret or commercial or financial information that is privileged or confidential. In the event that a submitter fails to respond to the notice within the time specified in it, the submitter shall be considered to have no objection to disclosure of the information. Information provided by a submitter pursuant to this paragraph (f) may itself be subject to disclosure under the FOIA.

(2) When notice is given to a submitter under this section, the requester shall be advised that such notice has been given to the submitter. The requester shall be further advised that a delay in responding to the request may be considered a denial of access to records and that the requester may proceed with an administrative appeal or seek judicial review, if appropriate. However, the requester will be invited to agree to a voluntary extension of time so that the CFPB may review the submitter's objection to disclose, if any.

(g) Notice of intent to disclose. The CFPB shall consider a submitter's objections and specific grounds for nondisclosure prior to determining whether to disclose business information. Whenever the CFPB decides to disclose business information over the objection of a submitter, the CFPB shall forward to the submitter a written notice which shall include:

(1) A statement of the reasons for which the submitter's disclosure objections were not sustained;

(2) A description of the business information to be disclosed; and

(3) A specified disclosure date which is not less than ten (10) business days after the notice of the final decision to release the requested information has been mailed to the submitter. Except as otherwise prohibited by law, a copy of the disclosure notice shall be forwarded to the requester at the same time.

(h) Notice to submitter of FOIA lawsuit. Whenever a requester brings suit seeking to compel disclosure of business information, the CFPB shall promptly notify the submitter of that business information of the existence of the suit.

(i) Notice to requester of business information. The CFPB shall notify a requester whenever it provides the submitter with notice and an opportunity to object to disclosure; whenever it notifies the submitter of its intent to disclose the requested information; and whenever a submitter files a lawsuit to prevent the disclosure of the information.

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§1070.21   Administrative appeals.

(a) Grounds for administrative appeals. A requester may appeal an initial determination of the CFPB, including for the following reasons:

(1) To deny access to records in whole or in part (as provided in §1070.18(b));

(2) To assign a particular fee category to the requester (as provided in §1070.22(b));

(3) To deny a request for a reduction or waiver of fees (as provided in §1070.22(e));

(4) That no records exist that are responsive to the request (as provided in §1070.18(b)); or

(5) To deny a request for expedited processing (as provided in §1070.17(e)).

(b) Time limits for filing administrative appeals. An appeal, other than an appeal of a denial of expedited processing, must be postmarked or submitted electronically on a date that is within ninety (90) calendar days after the date the initial determination is sent to the requester or the date of the letter transmitting the last records released, whichever is later. An appeal of a denial of expedited processing must be made within ten (10) days of the date of the initial determination letter to deny expedited processing (see §1070.17).

(c) Form and content of administrative appeals. In order to ensure a timely response to an appeal, the appeal shall be made in writing as follows:

(1) If appeal is submitted by mail or delivery service, it shall be addressed to and submitted to the officer specified in paragraph (e) of this section at the address set forth in §1070.14(b). The appeal shall be labeled “Freedom of Information Act Appeal.”

(2) If an appeal is submitted by electronic means, it shall be addressed to the officer specified in paragraph (e) of this section and submitted as set forth on the CFPB's website, http://www.consumerfinance.gov. The appeal shall be labeled “Freedom of Information Act Appeal.”

(3) The appeal shall set forth contact information for the requester, including, to the extent available, a mailing address, telephone number, or email address at which the CFPB may contact the requester regarding the appeal; and

(4) The appeal shall specify the applicable request tracking number, the date of the initial request, and the date of the letter of initial determination, and, where possible, enclose a copy of the initial request and the initial determination being appealed.

(d) Processing of administrative appeals. The FOIA office will record the date that appeals are received. The receipt of the appeal will be acknowledged by the CFPB and the requester will be advised of the date the appeal was received, the appeal tracking number, and the expected date of response.

(e) Determinations to grant or deny administrative appeals. The General Counsel is authorized to and shall decide whether to affirm the initial determination (in whole or in part), to reverse the initial determination (in whole or in part) or to remand the initial determination to the Chief FOIA Officer for further action and shall notify the requester of this decision in writing within twenty (20) business days after the date of receipt of the appeal, unless extended pursuant to §1070.16(d).

(1) If it is decided that the appeal is to be denied (in whole or in part) the requester shall be:

(i) Notified in writing of the denial;

(ii) Notified of the reasons for the denial, including which of the FOIA exemptions were relied upon;

(iii) Notified of the name and title or position of the official responsible for the determination on appeal;

(iv) Provided with a statement that judicial review of the denial is available in the United States District Court for the judicial district in which the requester resides or has a principal place of business, the judicial district in which the requested records are located, or the District of Columbia in accordance with 5 U.S.C. 552(a)(4)(B); and

(v) Provided with notification that dispute resolution services are available to the requester as a non-exclusive alternative to litigation through the Office of Government Information Services in accordance with 5 U.S.C. 552(h)(3). Dispute resolution is a voluntary process. If the CFPB agrees to participate in the dispute resolution services provided by the Office of Governmental Information Services, it will actively engage as a partner to the process in an attempt to resolve the dispute.

(2) If the initial determination is reversed on appeal, the requester shall be so notified and the request shall be processed promptly in accordance with the decision on appeal.

(3) If the initial determination is remanded on appeal to the Chief FOIA Officer for further action, the requester shall be so notified and the request shall be processed in accordance with the decision on appeal. The remanded request shall be treated as a new request received by the CFPB as of the date when the General Counsel transmits the remand notification to the requester. The procedures and deadlines set forth in this subpart for processing, deciding, responding to, and filing administrative appeals of new FOIA requests shall apply to the remanded request.

(f) Adjudication of administrative appeals of requests in litigation. An appeal ordinarily will not be adjudicated if the request becomes a matter of FOIA litigation.

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§1070.22   Fees for processing requests for CFPB records.

(a) In general. The CFPB shall determine whether and to what extent to charge a requester fees for processing a FOIA request, for the services and in the amounts set forth in this paragraph (a), by determining an appropriate fee category for the requester (as set forth in paragraph (b) of this section) and then by charging the requester those fees applicable to the assigned category (as set forth in paragraph (c) of this section), unless circumstances exist (as described in paragraph (d) of this section) that render fees inapplicable or unless the requester has requested and the CFPB has granted a reduction in or waiver of fees (as set forth in paragraph (e) of this section).

(1) The CFPB shall charge a requester fees for the cost of copying or printing records at the rate of $0.10 per page.

(2) The CFPB shall charge a requester for all time spent by its employees searching for records that are responsive to a request. The CFPB shall charge the requester fees for search time as follows:

(i) The CFPB shall charge for search time at the salary rate(s) (basic pay plus sixteen (16) percent) of the employee(s) who conduct the search. However, the CFPB shall charge search fees at the rate of $9.00 per fifteen (15) minutes of search time whenever only administrative/clerical employees conduct a search and at the rate of $23.00 per fifteen (15) minutes of search time whenever only professional/executive employees conduct a search. Search charges shall also include transportation of employees and records necessary to the search at actual cost. Fees may be charged for search time even if the search does not yield any responsive records, or if records are exempt from disclosure.

(ii) The CFPB shall charge the requester for the actual direct costs of conducting an electronic records search, including computer search time, runs, and output. The CFPB shall also charge for time spent by computer operators or programmers (at the rates set forth in paragraph (a)(2)(i) of this section) who conduct or assist in the conduct of an electronic records search.

(3) The CFPB shall charge a requester for time spent by its employees examining responsive records to determine whether any portions of such record are exempt from disclosure, pursuant to the FOIA exemptions of 5 U.S.C. 552(b). The CFPB shall also charge a requester for time spent by its employees redacting any such exempt information from a record and preparing a record for release to the requester. The CFPB shall charge a requester for time spent reviewing records at the salary rate(s) (i.e., basic pay plus sixteen (16) percent) of the employees who conduct the review. However, the CFPB shall charge review fees at the rate of $9.00 per fifteen (15) minutes of search time whenever only administrative/clerical employees review records and at the rate of $23.00 per fifteen (15) minutes of search time whenever only professional/executive employees review records. Fees shall be charged for review time even if records ultimately are not disclosed.

(4) Fees for all services provided shall be charged whether or not copies are made available to the requester for inspection. However, no fee shall be charged for monitoring a requester's inspection of records.

(5) Other services and materials requested which are not covered by this part nor required by the FOIA are chargeable at the actual cost to the CFPB. This includes, but is not limited to:

(i) Certifying that records are true copies; or

(ii) Sending records by special methods such as express mail, etc.

(b) Categories of requesters. (1) For purposes of assessing fees as set forth in this section, each requester shall be assigned to one of the following categories:

(i) Commercial user refers to one who seeks information for a use or purpose that furthers the commercial, trade, or profit interests of the requester or the person on whose behalf the request is made, which can include furthering those interests through litigation. The CFPB's decision to place a requester in the commercial use category will be made on a case-by-case basis based on how the requester will use the information.

(ii) Educational institution refers to any school that operates a program of scholarly research. A requester in this fee category must show that the request is made in connection with his or her role at the educational institution. Agencies may seek verification from the requester that the request is in furtherance of scholarly research and agencies will advise requesters of their placement in this category.

Example 1 to paragraph (b)(1)(ii). A request from a professor of geology at a university for records relating to soil erosion, written on letterhead of the Department of Geology, would be presumed to be from an educational institution.

Example 2 to paragraph (b)(1)(ii). A request from the same professor of geology seeking drug information from the Food and Drug Administration in furtherance of a murder mystery he is writing would not be presumed to be an institutional request, regardless of whether it was written on institutional stationery.

Example 3 to paragraph (b)(1)(ii). A student who makes a request in furtherance of their coursework or other school-sponsored activities and provides a copy of a course syllabus or other reasonable documentation to indicate the research purpose for the request, would qualify as part of this fee category.

(iii) Non-commercial scientific institution refers to an institution that is not operated on a “commercial user” basis as that term is defined in paragraph (b)(2)(i) of this section, and which is operated solely for the purpose of conducting scientific research, the results of which are not intended to promote any particular product or industry.

(iv) Representative of the news media refers to any person or entity that gathers information of potential interest to a segment of the public, uses its editorial skills to turn the raw materials into a distinct work, and distributes that work to an audience. In this paragraph (b)(1)(iv), the term “news” means information that is about current events or that would be of current interest to the public. Examples of news-media entities are television or radio stations broadcasting to the public at large and publishers of periodicals (but only if such entities qualify as disseminators of “news”) who make their products available for purchase by or subscription by or free distribution to the general public. Other examples of news media entities include online publications and websites that regularly deliver news content to the public. These examples are not all-inclusive. Moreover, as methods of news delivery evolve (for example, the adoption of the electronic dissemination of newspapers through telecommunications services), such alternative media shall be considered to be news-media entities. A freelance journalist shall be regarded as working for a news-media entity if the journalist can demonstrate a solid basis for expecting publication through that entity, whether or not the journalist is actually employed by the entity. A publication contract would present a solid basis for such an expectation; the CFPB may also consider the past publication record of the requester in making such a determination.

(v) Other requester refers to a requester who does not fall within any of the categories described in paragraphs (b)(1)(i) through (iv) of this section.

(2) Within twenty (20) calendar days of its receipt of a request, the CFPB shall make a determination as to the proper fee category to apply to a requester. The CFPB shall inform the requester of the determination in the request acknowledgment letter, or if no such letter is required, in another writing. Where the CFPB has reasonable cause to doubt the use to which a requester will put the records sought, or where that use is not clear from the request itself, the CFPB should seek additional clarification before assigning the request to a specific category.

(3) If the CFPB assigns to a requester a fee category, then the requester shall have the right to submit an appeal of the CFPB's determination in accordance with §1070.21. The CFPB shall communicate this appeal right as part of its written notification to the requester of an adverse fee category determination. The requester shall label its appeal request “Appeal of Fee Category Determination.”

(c) Fees applicable to each category of requester. The following fee schedule applies uniformly throughout the CFPB to requests processed under the FOIA. Specific levels of fees are prescribed for each category of requester defined in paragraph (b) of this section.

(1) Commercial users shall be charged the full direct costs of searching for, reviewing, and duplicating the records they request. Moreover, when a request is received for disclosure that is primarily in the commercial interest of the requester, the CFPB is not required to consider a request for a waiver or reduction of fees based upon the assertion that disclosure would be in the public interest. The CFPB may recover the cost of searching for and reviewing records even if there is ultimately no disclosure of records or no records are located.

(2) Educational and non-commercial scientific institution requesters shall be charged only for the cost of duplicating the records they request, except that the CFPB shall provide the first one hundred (100) pages of duplication free of charge.

(3) Representatives of the news media shall be charged only for the cost of duplicating the records they request, except that the CFPB shall provide them with the first one hundred (100) pages of duplication free of charge.

(4) Other requesters who do not fit any of the categories described in paragraphs (c)(1) through (3) of this section shall be charged the full direct cost of searching for and duplicating records that are responsive to the request, except that the CFPB shall provide the first one hundred (100) pages of duplication and the first two hours of search time free of charge. The CFPB may recover the cost of searching for records even if there is ultimately no disclosure of records, or no records are located. Requests from persons for records about themselves filed in the CFPB's systems of records shall continue to be treated under the fee provisions of the Privacy Act of 1974, 5 U.S.C. 552a, which permit fees only for duplication, after the first one hundred (100) pages are furnished free of charge.

(d) Other circumstances when fees are not charged. In the following situations the CFPB may not charge a requester certain FOIA processing fees.

(1) If the cost of collecting a fee would be equal to or greater than the total FOIA processing fee, then the CFPB shall not charge a requester any FOIA processing fees.

(2) If the total search and review fees are less than $250, then the CFPB shall not charge a requester any search and review fees.

(3) If the CFPB has waived or reduced FOIA processing fees in accordance with paragraph (e) of this section, then the CFPB shall not charge the portion of the FOIA processing fees that has been waived or reduced.

(4) If the CFPB fails to comply with any time limit under §1070.15 or §1070.21, then the CFPB shall not assess search fees or if the requester is a representative of the news media or an educational or noncommercial scientific institution, then the CFPB shall not assess duplication fees, unless:

(i) A court has determined that exceptional circumstances, as defined by the FOIA, exist; or

(ii) The CFPB has determined that unusual circumstances apply to the processing of the request; and

(A) Provided timely written notice to the requester of the unusual circumstances in accordance with §1070.16(d);

(B) Determined that more than 5,000 pages are necessary to respond to the request; and

(C) Discussed with the requester via mail, email, or telephone (or made not less than three good-faith attempts to do so) how the requester could effectively limit the scope of the request.

(5) If the CFPB determines, as a matter of administrative discretion, that waiving or reducing the fees would serve the interest of the United States Government.

(e) Waiver or reduction of fees. (1) A requester shall be entitled to receive from the CFPB a waiver or reduction in the fees otherwise applicable to a FOIA request whenever the requester:

(i) Requests such waiver or reduction of fees in writing as part of the FOIA request;

(ii) Labels the request for waiver or reduction of fees “Fee Waiver or Reduction Requested” on the FOIA request; and

(iii) Demonstrates that the fee reduction or waiver request that a waiver or reduction of the fees is in the public interest because:

(A) Furnishing the information is likely to contribute significantly to public understanding of the operations or activities of the government; and

(B) Furnishing the information is not primarily in the commercial interest of the requester.

(2) To determine whether the requester has satisfied the requirements of paragraph (e)(1)(iii)(A) of this section, the CFPB shall consider the following factors:

(i) The subject of the requested records must concern identifiable operations or activities of the Federal government, with a connection that is direct and clear, and not remote or attenuated.

(ii) The disclosable portions of the requested records must be meaningfully informative about government operations or activities in order to be “likely to contribute” to an increased public understanding of those operations or activities. The disclosure of information that already is in the public domain, in either a duplicative or a substantially similar form, is not as likely to contribute to the public's understanding.

(iii) The disclosure must contribute to the understanding of a reasonably broad audience of persons interested in the subject, as opposed to the individual understanding of the requester. A requester's expertise in the subject area and ability and intention to effectively convey information to the public shall be considered. It shall be presumed that a representative of the news media will satisfy this consideration.

(iv) The public's understanding of the subject in question, as compared to the level of public understanding existing prior to the disclosure, must be enhanced by the disclosure to a significant extent.

(3) To determine whether the requester has satisfied the requirements of paragraph (e)(1)(iii)(B) of this section, the CFPB shall consider the following factors:

(i) The CFPB shall consider any commercial interest of the requester (with reference to the definition of “commercial user” in paragraph (b)(1)(i) of this section), or of any person on whose behalf the requester may be acting, that would be furthered by the requested disclosure. Requesters shall be given an opportunity in the administrative process to provide explanatory information regarding this consideration.

(ii) A fee waiver or reduction is justified where the public interest standard is satisfied and that public interest is greater in magnitude than that of any identified commercial interest in disclosure. The CFPB ordinarily shall presume that where a news media requester has satisfied the public interest standard, the public interest will be the interest primarily served by disclosure to that requester. Disclosure to data brokers or others who merely compile and market government information for direct economic return shall not be presumed to primarily serve the public interest.

(4) Where only some of the records to be released satisfy the requirements for a waiver of fees, a waiver shall be granted for those records.

(5) If the CFPB denies a request to reduce or waive fees, then the CFPB shall advise the requester, in the denial notification letter, that the requester may incur fees if the CFPB proceeds to process the request. The notification letter shall also advise the requester that the CFPB will not proceed to process the request further unless the requester, in writing, directs the CFPB to do so and either agrees to pay any fees that may apply to processing the request or specifies an upper limit that the requester is willing to pay to process the request. If the CFPB does not receive this written direction and agreement/specification within thirty (30) calendar days of the date of the denial notification letter, then the CFPB shall deem the request to be withdrawn.

(6) If the CFPB denies a request to reduce or waive fees, then the requester shall have the right to submit an appeal of the denial determination in accordance with §1070.21. The CFPB shall communicate this appeal right as part of its written notification to the requester denying the fee reduction or waiver request. The requester should label its appeal request “Appeal for Fee Reduction/Waiver.”

(f) Advance notice and prepayment of fees. (1) The CFPB shall notify a requester of the estimated fees for processing a request and provide a breakdown of the fees attributable to search, review, and duplication, when the estimated fees are $250 or more and:

(i) The fees exceed the limit set by the requester;

(ii) The requester did not specify a limit; or

(iii) The CFPB has denied a request for a reduction or waiver of fees.

(2) The requester must provide an agreement to pay the estimated fees; however, the requester shall also be given an opportunity to reformulate the request in an attempt to reduce fees.

(3) If the fees are estimated to exceed $1000, the requester must pre-pay such amount prior to the processing of the request, or provide satisfactory assurance of full payment if the requester has a history of prompt payment of FOIA fees. The requester shall also be given an opportunity to reformulate the request in such a way as to lower the applicable fees.

(4) The CFPB reserves the right to request prepayment after a request is processed and before documents are released.

(5) If a requester has previously failed to pay a fee within thirty (30) calendar days of the date of the billing, the requester shall be required to pay the full amount owed plus any applicable interest and to make an advance payment of the full amount of the estimated fee before the CFPB begins to process a new request or the pending request.

(6) When the CFPB acts under paragraphs (f)(1) through (5) of this section, the statutory time limits of twenty (20) days (excluding Saturdays, Sundays, and legal public holidays) from receipt of initial requests or appeals, plus extensions of these time limits, shall begin only after fees have been paid, a written agreement to pay fees has been provided, or a request has been reformulated.

(g) Form of payment. Payment may be tendered as set forth on the CFPB's website, http://www.consumerfinance.gov.

(h) Charging interest. The CFPB may charge interest on any unpaid bill starting on the 31st day following the date of billing the requester. Interest charges will be assessed at the rate provided in 31 U.S.C. 3717 and will accrue from the date of the billing until payment is received by the CFPB. The CFPB will follow the provisions of the Debt Collection Act of 1982 (Pub. L. 97-365, 96 Stat. 1749), as amended, and its administrative procedures, including the use of consumer reporting agencies, collection agencies, and offset.

(i) Aggregating requests. Where the CFPB reasonably believes that a requester or a group of requesters acting together is attempting to divide a request into a series of requests for the purpose of avoiding fees, the CFPB may aggregate those requests and charge accordingly. The CFPB may presume that multiple requests of this type made within a thirty (30) day period have been made in order to avoid fees. Where requests are separated by a longer period, the CFPB will aggregate them only where there exists a solid basis for determining that aggregation is warranted under all the circumstances involved. Multiple requests involving unrelated matters will not be aggregated.

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§1070.23   Authority and responsibilities of the Chief FOIA Officer.

(a) Chief FOIA Officer. The Director authorizes the Chief FOIA Officer to act upon all requests for agency records, with the exception of determining appeals from the initial determinations of the Chief FOIA Officer, which will be decided by the General Counsel. The Chief FOIA officer shall, subject to the authority of the Director:

(1) Have CFPB-wide responsibility for efficient and appropriate compliance with the FOIA;

(2) Monitor implementation of the FOIA throughout the CFPB and keep the Director, the General Counsel, and the Attorney General appropriately informed of the CFPB's performance in implementing the FOIA;

(3) Recommend to the Director such adjustments to agency practices, policies, personnel and funding as may be necessary to improve the Chief FOIA Officer's implementation of the FOIA;

(4) Review and report to the Attorney General, through the Director, at such times and in such formats as the Attorney General may direct, on the CFPB's performance in implementing the FOIA;

(5) Facilitate public understanding of the purposes of the statutory exemptions of the FOIA by including concise descriptions of the exemptions in both the CFPB's handbook and the CFPB's annual report on the FOIA, and by providing an overview, where appropriate, of certain general categories of CFPB records to which those exemptions apply;

(6) Designate one or more FOIA Public Liaisons;

(7) Offer Training to Bureau staff regarding their responsibilities under the FOIA;

(8) Serve as the primary Bureau liaison with the Office of Government Information Services and the Office of Information Policy; and

(9) Maintain and update, as necessary and in accordance with the requirements of this subpart, the CFPB's FOIA website, including its e-FOIA Library.

(b) FOIA Public Liaisons. FOIA Public Liaisons shall report to the Chief FOIA Officer and shall serve as supervisory officials to whom a requester can raise concerns about the service the requester has received from the CFPB's FOIA office, following an initial response from the FOIA office staff. FOIA Public Liaisons shall be responsible for assisting in reducing delays, increasing transparency and understanding of the status of requests, and assisting in the resolution of disputes.

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