Edelman v. SEC, No. 14-1140, 2018 WL 1461897 (D.D.C. Mar. 23, 2018) (Moss, J.)
Re: Requests for records concerning SEC's review of transfer of ownership of Empire State building
Disposition: Granting defendant's motion for summary judgment; denying plaintiff's cross-motion for summary judgment
- Exemption 6: The court holds that, "[b]ecause the ["thirty-six investors (or associated parties) in the Empire State Building who contacted the SEC to voice concerns"] privacy interest in nondisclosure is substantial and the public interest in disclosure is de minimis, disclosing the identities of the complainants 'would constitute a clearly unwarranted invasion of personal privacy.'" The court notes that "[t]he parties – and the Court – agree that the information at issue here – the identities of the complainants – is contained in 'similar files' and thus satisfy Exemption 6's threshold requirement." Then, "the Court concludes that disclosure would compromise a substantial privacy interest." The court notes that "the SEC engaged in a case-by-case review of the privacy interests at stake, and it disclosed the identities of roughly half of the seventy complainants." "Those individuals, the SEC has explained, had either previously indicated 'that their names need not be withheld' or had made public statements about the [situation] or had appeared as parties or counsel in lawsuits about the transaction." However, "the Court concludes that the privacy interests of the thirty-six complainants, who have not joined the public debate over the wisdom or lawfulness of the . . . transaction, are substantial." Against that, "the Court agrees with the SEC that the public interest in the identities of the thirty-six remaining complainants is minimal." "It is difficult to discern what 'incremental' insight into the work of the SEC the specific identities of the thirty-six remaining complainants might convey." The court finds that "disclosing the identities of the thirty-six complainants 'would not shed any [meaningful] light on the conduct of [the SEC].'"