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Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Corporate secrecy at issue in Supreme Court case

from OMB Watch:
In August 2004, SBC Communications admitted improperly charging for services under an FCC program to subsidize phone and Internet access for schools and libraries. (In 2005, SBC merged with AT&T.) SBC returned the money and paid an additional $500,000 to the government under the terms of a consent decree adopted in December 2004, in exchange for the FCC closing its investigation into the matter.

In April 2005, Comptel, a trade association whose members include AT&T competitors such as Sprint and Verizon, submitted a FOIA request for the FCC's investigation file. SBC opposed the request on the grounds that the records were exempt from release under FOIA's "personal privacy" provision. In August 2005, the FCC decided to release the records because "generally, businesses do not possess 'personal privacy' interests." SBC appealed the agency’s decision.


In November and December 2010, the government and AT&T filed their briefs in the case, along with Comptel and several amici curiae. "The court of appeals' decision is itself a singular outlier in an otherwise uniform body of more than 35 years of decisional law and commentary," the government argued in its brief. "A corporation itself can no more be embarrassed, harassed, or stigmatized than a stone."
Read the rest here.

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