Supreme Court expands FOIA trade secret protections

In Food Marketing Institute v. Argus Leader Media, the Court resolved a circuit court split interpreting when the Government may withhold confidential or trade secret information from Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests.  Previously, a company had to demonstrate “substantial competitive harm” for their information to be protected under FOIA Exemption 4.  Now a company need only show the information “customarily and actually treated as private by its owner and provided to the Government under an assurance of privacy.”  While the decision offers greater protections to companies providing information to the Government, it will limit information available through FOIA requests.  Overturning decades of precedent, Justice Gorsuch wrote that the earlier National Parks decision is a “relic from a ‘bygone era of statutory construction.’”

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