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New Guidance Issued on Exemption 4 of the FOIA

Yesterday, the Office of Information Policy (OIP) issued guidance addressing the recent Supreme Court decision in Food Marketing Institute v. Argus Leader Media, 139 S. Ct. 915 (2019).  The Court’s decision overturned the definition of confidential in Exemption 4 established over forty years ago in Nat’l Parks & Conservation Ass'n v. Morton, 498 F.2d 765 (D.C. Cir. 1974).  

OIP’s guidance contains a detailed discussion of the decision in Food Marketing Institute v. Argus Leader, as well as the scope of Exemption 4 before and after the Supreme Court decision.  The purpose of the guidance is to address the new standard under Exemption 4 and to provide workable rules for agencies to use when making disclosure determinations. Accompanying the guidance, OIP also issued a step-by-step guide to further assist agencies in applying the new standard.

Agencies may contact OIP’s FOIA Counselor Service with any questions regarding this guidance article or any other FOIA matter.  The Exemption 4 guidance can be found on the OIP’s website.  Previously released policy guidance articles are also available.

Updated October 4, 2019